Bill 1984 Advances

Colorado Senate Bill 241, which I’ve taken to calling “Bill 1984” because of its Orwellian implications, allows police to collect people’s DNA based merely on arrest. The basic argument against the bill is that it creates a perverse incentive for police to arrest people on some pretext just to look at their DNA.

Nor does an amendment change the basic nature of the bill. The Denver Post reports that the bill “is on the way to Gov. Bill Ritter’s desk after [it] was amended to allow police to take DNA tests upon arrest but for the sample not to be processed unless a person is charged. The sample will be destroyed if no charges are filed.” All this does is extend the perverse incentive to charging somebody on some pretext, knowing full well the charges will be dismissed, just to look at the person’s DNA.

Mike Krause and Joe Carr also loot at some of the funding injustices surrounding the bill.

Republican Scott Tipton said, “We did a good thing today. We helped protect that population out there called our daughters and our wives.”

Well, Scott, I talked to my wife about this, and she wants no part of your fascistic police state.

5 thoughts on “Bill 1984 Advances”

  1. So much for innocent until proved guilty.
    I could understand a court ordering a DNA test in selected cases. Say, in a homicide where the only real evidence left at the scene were blood splatters that didn’t belong to the victim. Even that however, is forcing someone to testify against themselves, and all the arguments against that by various lawyers isn’t anything but lipstick on a pig.

  2. Honestly, I don’t see any difference between collecting DNA and collecting fingerprints upon arrest. Both fingerprints and DNA have lead to arrests and convictions, and both are unique to each individual. As far as I know, no one has successfully argued that being fingerprinted violates self-incrimination. My only problem with collecting and testing DNA would be the expense, and that alone would preclude the police just picking up someone without a good reason.

  3. Perhaps “cologeek” would care to respond to the argument that I made against DNA sampling upon arrest. If our only concern is arrests and convictions, why don’t we simply repeal that pesky Fourth Amendment?

  4. Why do you think that anyone would want to arrest you “just” to look at your DNA? If a person is already a suspect in a crime, and are being booked, then the DNA sample will be collected along with their fingerprints and photograph. All of which can be used to get a conviction. If none of these match the criminal who committed the crime, then the police can continue to look for the true perpetrator. This is only giving law enforcement another tool to do their jobs, nothing more. I have yet to see law enforcement conducting random sweeps of citizens just to get their fingerprints. I can’t see it happening for DNA either.

  5. I have not formulated a clear position on fingerprints. However (for starters), there is a clear difference between a fingerprint — which you leave behind everywhere you go and which can be collected quickly and non-invasively — and a DNA sample, which can only be collected invasively. (Obviously we shed DNA fragments all the time, but a usable sample requires an invasive procedure.)

    You’re ignoring the very real investigative differences between fingerprints and DNA. If the police have collected the DNA from the probable perpetrator, either from blood, sperm, or skin beneath the victim’s nails, the police can either do their job and look for evidence pointing to the perpetrator, or they can start guessing and arresting people “on spec.”

    Again, if our only concern is finding the perpetrator, we might as well simply repeal the Fourth Amendment and start entering DNA into the police databases from birth. If that’s what you want, then just admit as much. Do you seriously doubt that, at some point, the police will urge the legislature to let them keep the DNA records on file permanently?

    You’re also ignoring a couple other details. A fingerprint at a crime scene is often obscured or, more often, not present. DNA is present only sometimes, but when it is present, it’s typically binary: there’s either a sample or their isn’t.

    Also, unlike fingerprints, DNA can be used to match family members. So if the police suspect Brother A of committing the crime, but they can’t find Brother A, they may arrest Brother B (or some other relative) on some pretext to check out Brother A.

    Your simplistic argument that DNA sampling is okay because police currently fingerprint arrested suspects simply doesn’t fly.

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