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You like me! Of course, you probably don't know me very well.

you want a piece of me?

September 30th, 2010 by biscuit

In comments yesterday, my father raised an interesting point.

I heard on the NPR this morning that the state of Colorado will, as of tomorrow, be taking cotton swab DNA samples from people arrested for felonies. The ACLU is fighting it. On the one hand it seems logical to take these samples to see if Joe-Ax-Murderer is also the guy who knocked over and stole your granny’s purse. He is, as a felon, already required to allow himself to be photographed and fingerprinted…. is DNA that much different?
I think (as do the authorities) that many cases will be solved because, let’s face it, criminals are generally involved in more than one crime. There is also the idea that the first time criminal WILL NOT allow themselves to ever do anything again because we’ve got their DNA. Sounds like a winning situation for society.
What says you?

Several European countries have been keeping such databases for some time now, starting as early as 1995. Three years ago, they started to share that information. Now, if you’re arrested for rape in England, you may end up standing trial for a murder you committed in France ten years ago.

Sounds like a not horrible plan, right? A step up from fingerprints, but the same general ladder?

My original reaction is sure, let’s do it. After all, I’m not going to do anything wrong, so it won’t affect me. Only bad guys will have their DNA collected, and bad guys are – well, bad guys. Anything we can do to bring those suckers in, amirite?

The problem is, this is a slippery slope, y’all. Let’s say that this is a rousing success. Criminals are being thrown in jail left and right with irrefutable evidence.

Then? Let’s say that it occurs to someone that since the general public obviously wants these people in jail, they won’t mind providing samples of their OWN DNA for exclusionary purposes. Research purposes. To discourage future misbehavior.

OR, what if my brother is the prime suspect in some murder, but they don’t have enough evidence to arrest him, and therefore can’t get his DNA – and then someone points out that I donated blood last week, and a mitochondrial match would be enough for a warrant? Yeah, I know, it’s a little CSI, but you hear what I’m saying. One of the facts of DNA is that it doesn’t point to just the person it belongs to – it points to their relatives as well. As we get better and smarter, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that having DNA on file will be the same as having a social security number – something that’s expected, even required, and a serious pain in the ass to avoid.

Why would I want to avoid it? I’m not going to do anything wrong, but I’m not sure that means the government should be allowed to know everything about me. Thoughts?


7 Responses to “you want a piece of me?”

  1. D says:

    I’ve got to think about this one. It IS very intrusive, not only to the DNA provider but his/her family… you’ve got a point there. On the other hand…. lets say you are arrested for a crime you didn’t commit and your DNA is taken and VOILA! It’s a pretty good match… but you have a good alibi, maybe then the laws having the ability to look at your relatives is a good thing. A lot of it is DO YOU TRUST THE LAW TO DO THE RIGHT THING? Did the article say people who were arrested for felonies OR people who were convicted? I can’t remember. I have NO problem with people who have been convicted.

  2. D says:

    Another thought… is “FOUND” DNA admissible in court? IE: I take a sweat sample from your bicycle or a cigarette butt or a napkin etc etc and it turns out YOU WERE at the scene of the crime…. Is that admissible or can I only use that for my own edification and STILL have to prove in another manner that you were there?
    If either case…. privacy wise, we are all doomed!

  3. Awlbiste says:

    I’m not going to give an opinion either way (because I’m not sure) but imagine this scenario:

    Serial rapists are not uncommon in this country. Let’s assume a number of them go and get a rape kit done, DNA evidence is collected. Now said serial rapist goes and gets himself caught and his DNA is cataloged, as per said felony conviction. Guy comes up for parole, it’s granted. Some days later another woman is raped, but this time his DNA is already on file and they know exactly who he is.

  4. Awlbiste says:

    And by them, I mean the victims. Proofreading is not my strong suit in the evenings.

  5. biscuit says:

    I was thinking about this yesterday because I was telling Crockett about the backlog of rape test kits – I think rape is one crime where DNA analysis isn’t done often ENOUGH.

  6. D says:

    This is obviously a tricky question. It has the ability to be a huge benefit to society but the chance for it to be misused is immense. Unlike so many of these multi-faceted questions that we try to come to terms with, just saying “I don’t want MY DNA on file” isn’t good enough. If a close family member feels otherwise, in essence, YOUR DNA IS on file.
    I seem to recall a University this past year that asked for volunteer DNA samples from all incoming students.
    Although it was purportedly for medical reasons….. who knows?


  7. biscuit says:

    Ick. My final opinion: I’m keeping my damn DNA to myself unless they find me standing over a hacked up body holding a bloody axe. (In which case, they probably won’t need my DNA, but you probably see my point.)

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