The Supreme Court later this month will hear a major genetic-privacy case testing whether authorities may take DNA samples from anybody arrested for serious crimes.
The case has wide-ranging implications, because at least 27 states and the federal government have regulations requiring suspects to give a DNA sample upon some type of arrest, regardless of conviction. In all the states with such laws, DNA saliva samples are cataloged in state and federal crime-fighting databases.
The justices are reviewing a 2012 decision from Maryland’s top court, which said it was a breach of the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure to take, without warrants, DNA samples from suspects who have not been convicted.
The upcoming hearing, slated for Feb. 26, has drawn a huge following from civil rights groups, crime victims, federal and state prosecutors and police associations — each arguing their party lines.
The President Barack Obama administration told the justices in a filing that “DNA fingerprinting is a minimal incursion on an arrestee’s privacy interests. Those interests are already much diminished in light of an arrestee’s status and the various intrusions and restrictions to which he is subject — and that is particularly true of any interest in preventing law enforcement from obtaining his identifying information.”
On the other side, the Electronic Privacy Information Center said the indefinite retention of DNA samples raises unforeseen privacy issues.
“As our knowledge of genetics and its capabilities continues to expand, it brings with it new challenges to privacy. Once an individual’s DNA sample is in a government database, protecting that information from future exploitation becomes more difficult,” the group told the justices in a filing...