A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that police can routinely take DNA from people they arrest, equating a DNA cheek swab to other common procedures like fingerprinting.
According to The Associated Press, 28 states and the federal government currently take DNA swabs after arrests. This practice is common in all 50 states, but only after getting a court’s blessing. The Supreme Court decision was over whether the DNA collection could come before a conviction and without a warrant.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court’s five-justice majority: ‘‘The use of DNA for identification is no different than matching an arrestee’s face to a wanted poster of a previously unidentified suspect; or matching tattoos to known gang symbols to reveal a criminal affiliation; or matching the arrestee’s fingerprints to those recovered from a crime scene. DNA is another metric of identification used to connect the arrestee with his or her public persona, as reflected in records of his or her actions that are available to police.’’
The four dissenting judges argued that the court was allowing a major change in police powers: ‘‘Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,’’ conservative Justice Antonin Scalia said in a sharp dissent, AP reports. ‘‘This will solve some extra crimes, to be sure. But so would taking your DNA when you fly on an airplane — surely the TSA must know the ‘identity’ of the flying public. For that matter, so would taking your children’s DNA when they start public school.’’