ACLU Attacks DNA Information on California Arrestees


ACRU Staff


July 26, 2010

Fingerprints and photographs of people arrested for criminal activity have long been used to solve present and future crimes. Despite that, the ACLU claims it is somehow unconstitutional to take DNA swabs of people being arrested, to be used for the same purposes. This case, now before the Ninth Circuit, should be thrown out as frivolous.

The facts for this article, but not the legal conclusions, come from an article in on 14 July. The ACLU has attacked a California law which requires the collection of DNA samples from all individuals who are arrested for felonies in that state.

The ACLU claims that the government should not be allowed to take the “genetic fingerprint” of anyone who has not been convicted of a crime. The ACLU points out that one third of the 300,000 Californians are never convicted.

What the ACLU does not notice is that its own objection shows why it is absurd, and should be summarily thrown out.

It has long since been established that real fingerprints, taken from the tips of people arrested for possible criminal activity, are taken, collected, and archived. Those fingerprints are used first to establish for sure the identity of the person arrested (if his prints are on file). Then, those prints are used in solving the crime at hand, if possible. Lastly, those prints are maintained and used to solve future crimes if unknown exemplars are found at the scene.

The ACLU does not argue, and cannot sanely argue, that it is unconstitutional for police in California or anywhere else, to take, preserve and use fingerprints from people who have been arrested. Courts have long since made short work of any such arguments.

Consider the photographs that are taken of people who are arrested. Those, likewise, are kept and used for present and future identification purposes. Yet, the ACLU mounts no objection to the taking and maintenance of those.

There is no rational distinction between the “genetic fingerprints” of DNA testing. The latter is merely another way of identifying a suspect in a present or future crime. DNA is easier to find, more solid in identification (considering that sometimes fingerprints are only partials). And DNA is a newer form of identification.

None of those differences make a constitutional difference from the prior cases approving use of fingerprints and photographs. The ACLU lawyers on this matter should be laughed out of court, and fined for filing a frivolous action on the way out the door.

Unfortunately, this case is currently before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco — the most reversed of all the Circuit Courts. There is a chance that Court may buy what the ACLU is selling, and the correction may have to come from the US Supreme Court.

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