Condemn Supreme Court for Allowing Police to Seize Genetic Information Without a Warrant

Target: Supreme Court Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Breyer, Alito, and Thomas

Goal: Condemn the Court for its unjust ruling allowing the seizure and entry of arrestees’ DNA into databases without a warrant.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that law enforcement officials may legally take a DNA sample from an arrestee without a warrant. Such samples could then be used to link those arrested for one offense to prior, unsolved crimes. This ruling constitutes a drastic departure from our nation’s long-standing prohibition against generalized searches, and constitutes a frightening erosion of all of our civil rights.

Historically, the Supreme Court has held that all personal searches, even those not requiring a warrant, require individualized suspicion that the person being searched has committed a particular crime. In the Part, the Court has repeated held that suspicionless searches cannot be used to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing, and in the exceptional cases where suspicionless searches have been permitted, they have always stated that such searches were justified by concerns other than crime detection. Here, however, the Court has deviated from the text and spirit of the Bill of Rights and hundreds of years of jurisprudence, and allowed law enforcement to conduct warrantless, suspicionless searches of a person’s most intimate personal information.

The Court has opened the door to expansive DNA testing and entry into a government database of anyone arrested, rightly or wrongfully, for any criminal offense. The Court’s assurances that the parts of the DNA tested do not contain personal medical information, and that the information will be deleted upon acquittal, are nothing but empty promises without force of law. Without oversight over the testing process, the most personal information a person possesses their genetic code, could be tested for personal information, and stored forever in a database accessible to all law enforcement agencies. Requiring a warrant for pre-conviction testing, and allowing warrantless testing after lawful conviction, allow for law enforcement to do its job while preserving privacy rights.  Please add your voice to this petition to express your outrage at the Court’s ruling.


Dear Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Breyer, Alito, and Thomas,

Your recent ruling the in the case of Maryland v. King was a disappointing departure from prior jurisprudence and yet another example of this Court’s disregard for the civil rights of Americans. The right to privacy is one of the most sacred of our fundamental rights, but by allowing the warrantless testing and entry of arrestee’s DNA into computer databases, you have allowed the government access to the most personal information a person possesses, their genetic code.

Justice Scalia’s dissent thoroughly eviscerates the arguments of the majority, and calls into question their reasoning in this matter. If the DNA sampling is for the purposes of suspect identification, as Justice Kennedy writes in the majority opinion, why does the Maryland statute forbid such testing before arraignment? As Justice Scalia states in his dissent, the law has long requires, and should require still, that even those searches which do not require a warrant should be based upon individualized suspicion, and suspicionless searches cannot be conducted for the purpose detecting evidence of ordinary crimes. To allow otherwise renders the Fourth Amendment’s promise that we are to be “secure in our persons and effects” from unreasonable searches and seizures an empty promise.

The interest of solving crimes does not justify the nullification of fundamental rights. The assurances in the majority opinion that only non-coding DNA is to be tested, and that those who are acquitted will have their information removed from the database, does nothing to quell our well-founded fears. Without someone looking over the shoulders of the police officers and lab technicians to ensure that no medically relevant or potentially embarrassing information about an arrestee will not be uncovered and leaked to the public, those assurances are not persuasive, especially in light of recent releases of private information by federal agencies. The promise that the information will be deleted if a person is acquitted is also unenforceable; how will the acquitted, or the public, know for sure that the data is gone forever from the system, and has not been replicated and stored elsewhere for future use? The answer is that they cannot. While this case focused on a state where only serious crimes result in a DNA test, Justice Scalia was correct in his warning that your ruling will lead to more widespread use of DNA testing for all crimes and infractions, and the widespread entry of individual genetic information into a database accessible by all law enforcement.

This letter is to express our dissent and outrage at this unconscionable ruling. ruling in favor of this practice was yet another betrayal by this Court of the trust of a people whose rights you were appointed to safeguard. Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Breyer, Alito, and Thomas, you have violated your duty to uphold the Constitution for the sake of further empowering the police state at the expense of the American people. Shame on all of you.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit:  Thomas Splettstoesser via Wikimedia Commons

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