Felons should be made to give samples of DNA, fingerprints for databases What others say

Posted: Wednesday, November 05, 2003

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has declared unconstitutional a law requiring federal prisoners and parolees to give blood samples for the FBI's DNA database.

The 9th Circuit is the most liberal and frequently overturned federal appeals court in the country. Let's hope they are overturned in this case as well.

The DNA database is used much like the FBI's fingerprint database, which has been used countless times to apprehend criminals. DNA evidence is often left at crime scenes and can be used to identify possible suspects who were at the scene. Apparently the 9th Circuit read tea leaves in a cup used by the U.S. Supreme Court. It looked at a related Supreme Court case and decided that requiring the blood samples amounted to illegal invasion of privacy because the samples are taken without legal suspicion that the convicts were involved in crimes other than the ones for which they were sent to prison.

In other words, the court wants the prisoners to commit another crime before their DNA is taken, meaning that DNA evidence left at the new crime scene could not be tracked to them until they were identified by other means. That would make the new crime a lot like the extra golf stroke called a mulligan, a free one.

If the 9th Circuit's decision is upheld which hopefully is unlikely it would undermine laws in many states requiring such samples. The rules vary from state to state, but Alaska requires that DNA samples be taken from those convicted of violent felonies.

We agree absolutely that government must protect and observe the privacy of all Americans. But the one great exception should be convicted felons. Though civil liberties activists would disagree, our feeling is that once felons are convicted they should automatically forfeit their privacy right. Felon fingerprints and DNA samples should be routinely taken and placed in the FBI's national database for use in criminal investigations at all levels.

It supposedly is a fundamental rule of law that the right to swing your arms stops at the end of the other guy's nose. In other words, you can swing your arms all you want as long as you don't whack somebody.

And those who have proven they are willing to commit a felony have taken that step too far and should be forever trackable through fingerprint and DNA databases. Giving samples should be a basic condition under which they are released from custody. The 9th Circuit Court will never see things this way, but there are more sensible heads in the judicial system. Let's hope they weigh in on this issue soon.

The Voice of the (Anchorage) Times - Oct. 28



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