Cheek swab decision is outrageous

Monday June 24, 2013

To the editor of THE EAGLE:

The U.S. Supreme Court, in its 5-4 decision in early June 2013 that police can take DNA cheek swabs as routinely as fingerprints during bookings of suspects even if not yet convicted or indicted by a grand jury for serious crimes, has stood the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights on its head.

Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority (Alito, Breyer, Thomas and Roberts) observed that such a swab did constitute a "search," but was not "unreasonable" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Justice Kennedy is truly blind to the fact that the "minor inconvenience" of a cheek swab is truly invasive of a person’s innermost privacy. The cheek swab forces a person to give up potential evidence against his will and in violation of the Fifth Amendment that protects an individual from being compelled to testify against himself.

Justice Antonin Scalia, in a scathing dissent and joined by Justices Kagan, Sotomayor and Ginsberg, wrote that the Supreme Court’s majority ruling "could even apply in the case of false arrest," and could lead to abuse in violation of the Constitution by becoming part of a permanent national DNA data base.

The Supreme Court decision regarding fingerprints and cheek swabs during routine police bookings is far more outrageous than the widely publicized disclosure of the government’s collection of telephone and Internet records sanctioned by the Foreign Intelligence Security Administration (FISA) courts.

One might hope and expect that the Supreme Court will be asked to revisit this issue when a suspect during a routine booking refuses to submit to a cheek swab citing his Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination.





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