Cops to force DNA testing on arrested people

  Cops will be soon forcing you to give a DNA sample when you get arrested in Arizona.

I suspect it is unconstitutional. But lawyers and civil rights activists said the same thing when the practice of fingerprinting people started, that per the 5th Amendment it was unconstitutional. And of course the police state Supreme Court upheld the practice. Sadly I suspect the same thing will happen with the practice of cops forcing you to provide a DNA sample.


Divisive DNA plan nearly law State would catalog those arrested, not just convicted; critics worried

Amanda J. Crawford

The Arizona Republic
Jun. 20, 2007 12:00 AM

State lawmakers voted Tuesday to expand the state's DNA database dramatically by requiring all people arrested for certain crimes to provide DNA samples for state records whether they are convicted or not.

Conservative and liberal lawmakers alike raised alarms that the measure would violate the civil liberties of people never convicted of a crime and set a dangerous precedent for government collection of sensitive genetic information.

"I think it is egregious," Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, a conservative Republican from Gilbert and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said on the House floor Tuesday. "It tramples on the liberties and freedom of the people."

Supporters say the move provides an expanded crime-solving tool for law enforcement and compared taking a DNA sample to taking a mug shot or fingerprints at the time of arrest. Current law requires DNA samples only after a person is convicted of certain felonies.

"As we build that database, more people will be caught before police have to stake out a hotel room and wait for a second victim," said Sen. Chuck Gray, R-Mesa, a former police officer who is the measure's key backer.

The provision, part of the state budget package, is now waiting action by Gov. Janet Napolitano, who is expected to sign the overarching bill as part of the agreed-upon state budget.

The $2 million- to $3.5 million-a-year program would be paid for by higher fines for traffic tickets and other criminal and civil offenses, which would go up 4 percent.

Opponents cried foul that what amounts to a significant change in state policy was wrapped into a budget bill, without going through the lengthy public hearing process required of individual bills.

A bill with similar provisions introduced by Gray earlier this year struggled to get out of Senate committees as lawmakers from both parties raised red flags about privacy rights.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, called it a "radical change" in law that would disproportionately affect minorities and presume everyone arrested is guilty.

"I believe this is a very, very scary step toward a Big Brother state," she said on the House floor.

The measure would require local police to take DNA samples of anyone arrested in connection with a host of crimes, both misdemeanors and felonies. Those charges include prostitution, indecent exposure, burglary, sexual assault, child molestation, homicide and crimes involving a weapon.

That DNA would remain on file with the state even if the person was acquitted or if charges were never brought or dismissed. In those cases, a person could petition the court to expunge the DNA from the database.

Sinema and other critics noted, though, that the court is not required to do that and that the process could require them to obtain an attorney.

But while critics said the policy change goes too far, Gray said he doesn't think it goes far enough. His original bill would have required DNA samples of anyone booked on any charge. He wants to expand the DNA collection to do that.

Gray said that he believes the majority of all criminals have been arrested in the past and that police often know someone has "been up to no good" even if they don't have the evidence to make charges stick.

"You can live in fear all your life, or you can go out and proactively address crime," Gray said.

The move is not unprecedented. The federal government is working to draft rules to implement a similar program to collect the DNA from tens of thousands of people accused of federal crimes, mostly immigration violations. That measure passed quietly last year as part of an amendment attached to the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and was praised by crime victim organizations.

Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, warns that there are no limitations on how the government could use the DNA once it is collected. The Department of Public Safety has said that access to its database is controlled and only for law enforcement purposes. But Meetze raises the specter that, down the road, the DNA could be sold to private entities like insurance companies or researchers.

"It should raise serious privacy concerns for everyone in this state," Meetze said.