Mar 012012
 March 1, 2012  Posted by  Laws, Surveillance

An op-ed by Brandon Garrett of the University of Virginia School of Law begins:

In a decision on February 23, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in Haskell v. Harris, found that an expansion of the California DNA databank to include DNA taken not just from convicted felons, but from all people arrested for felonies, was constitutional. California voters approved this expansion in 2004 through Proposition 69 [PDF], the “DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act.” All states require DNA collection from convicts, and over 20 states and the federal government, have also expanded to require DNA from some or all arrestees. DNA databanks are a powerful tool for solving crimes, convicting the guilty and helping to free the innocent. I am no opponent of DNA databanks. However, bigger may not be better where DNA databanks are concerned. The Ninth Circuit panel’s wooden analysis did not engage with the many costs of wanton database expansion. To solve crimes and protect the innocent, it would be far better to dedicate resources to improve other types of evidence, fix quality control at crime labs and do more DNA tests in actual criminal cases.

Read more on Jurist. Garrett does not criticize the Haskell ruling on Fourth Amendment grounds but in terms of the effectiveness of using DNA as a crime-solving or exculpatory tool, and he cites his own published researched on cases where convicted people were exonerated by subsequent DNA analyses. It makes for an interesting read.

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