Indiana: forced DNA samples

I read with interest an article Indiana court: no warrant needed to force DNA where the Americans are up in arms about being able to take a DNA sample from someone after they’ve been arrested.  Just as well they haven’t been to England recently then.  In England & Wales, if a person is arrested in relation to any crime the Police can and do take DNA samples and fingerprints.  These are processed and put on the national database, regardless of whether the person is ever found guilty of a crime.  It makes the DNA database an extremely effective tool in the fight against crime.  Many people have been arrested as the result of being arrested for something relatively minor such as recidivist speeding or outstanding Council fines and their DNA has come back with a “hit” on the database for something far more serious such as rape or murder.

I understand from police colleagues that in New Zealand there is no automatic right to be able to collect samples from people when they have been arrested but those arrested people can be offered the option to provide samples.  Police officers I know like to encourage people to give their DNA but if the person isn’t convicted of a crime then the sample and the results must be eliminated.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with contribution to a DNA database.  In fact, I had to provide a sample on more than one occasion in order to be able to even enter some of the forensic science laboratories in England & Wales – and I know those samples weren’t destroyed after I had left the lab.  Perhaps I don’t mind because I know how the database works and I still have faith that it works properly.  What happens when the day comes that it doesn’t work properly and a miscarriage of justice occurs?  It’s happened with the fingerprint database – to a police officer.

I know that many people have a problem with the idea of part of their body being taken by the State and kept for comparison with other samples at a later date.  Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion but at the end of the day, the Police need to be able to tackle crime in the most effective way possible.  Not getting arrested is the best way for a member of the general public to keep their DNA and fingerprints off the database, so therefore I assume the answer is not to become a Person Of Interest to the Police.

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One Response

  1. DNA sampling Bill has second reading

    Personally, I’m not reassured by the Minister’s used of scare-quotes:

    “… allows police to collect DNA from people they ‘intend to charge’, and to match it against samples …”

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