When individuals are arrested, they are fingerprinted and photographed. These procedures have become so standardized that most of us do not even question the privacy implications of these actions. However, the collection of an additional identifying marker being cataloged with regard to some arrestees and some convicted criminal offenders is being criticized by many as too-far overstepping the boundaries of privacy in the name of public safety.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has currently processed over one million samples of DNA, taken from those convicted of primarily violent felonies. In a move being widely criticized by criminal justice advocates, civil liberties experts and various members of the legal community, Florida will now collect DNA samples from those arrested but not yet convicted of felony burglary and theft.
Certainly, DNA evidence may help exonerate the criminally accused, as well as convict them. And Florida law enforcement insist that the expansion of the current database, which will add 100,000 samples annually, will better enable them to solve crimes without high wrongful conviction rates. However, the collection of genetic material from those who have not even been convicted of crimes is a serious privacy violation arguably more pressing than the need for an additional law enforcement tool.
While law enforcement officials understandably argue that DNA collection helps them to process open cases, there is a point at which benefits to law enforcement may be legitimately outweighed by privacy concerns of the accused. DNA collection from those not yet convicted of any crime may be a bright line. A pending Supreme Court case involving Maryland’s DNA database may confirm or reject that the expansion of Florida’s database is either legitimate or an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.
Source: First Coast News, “Florida expanding use of DNA samples for crime investigations” Dave Heller, Dec. 6, 2012