Privacy Overreach? Supreme Court Rules DNA Same As Fingerprints

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that a person's DNA can be treated the same as fingerprints, making legal the practice of taking and storing an arrested suspect's DNA even before a trial or conviction. "The ruling was 5-4. Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative, joined three of the court's more liberal members — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — in dissenting," NBC News' Pete Williams and Erin McClam report:
The five justices in the majority ruled that DNA sampling, after an arrest "for a serious offense" and when officers "bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody," does not violate the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches. Under those specifications, the court said, "taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee's DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment." Scalia's siding with the liberals reflects his growing concern over the past five years about privacy, said Tom Goldstein, the publisher of SCOTUSblog, who teaches at Harvard Law School and is a Supreme Court analyst for NBC News. "We've seen several decisions where he has joined more liberal justices to find greater privacy rights," he said in an interview. "It's not a big surprise in recent years, but it is a surprise in the sense of his general conservatism." ... At an oral argument in February, Justice Samuel Alito called the question perhaps the most important criminal procedure case the court had taken up in decades. Twenty-eight states and the federal government take DNA swabs from people under arrest before they can be tried.

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Image, top, US Supreme Court, by regexman via Flickr

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