An interesting story by Osagie K. Obasogie of the Huffington Post discusses proposals to lower the bar for collecting and keeping the DNA samples of individuals arrested (but, as we shall see, not necessarily convicted) of crimes. For example, David Paterson, the Govenor of New York, has suggested a law whereby the state DNA database would include not only individuals arrested for felonies but also some individuals that were convicted of misdemeanors. Another example:

[T]he United States House of Representatives recently passed legislation that creates millions of dollars in incentives to encourage states to mandate taking DNA samples from individuals arrested for (but not necessarily charged with or convicted of) certain crimes. This provision (H.R. 4614) is part of the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act of 2010, named after the tragic rape and murder of a young New Mexico woman. The bill provides a 5% bonus in federal money granted to states under a justice assistance program for “minimum DNA collection,” which includes taking DNA samples from felony arrestees of specified major crimes. A 10% bonus would be given to states that partake in “enhanced” collection, which includes the extra step of taking DNA from those arrested for specified lesser crimes. 

As Obasogie points out, this may lead to a situation where the DNA of innocent people is stored along with that of the guilty. For more information on this and other bioethical issues, visit the Center for Genetics and Society

What do you think of the government holding on to the private and sensitive information that is potentially held in an individual’s DNA profile? Does this impinge on civil liberties? 

UPDATE 2.1.2011. A law that will expand the collection of DNA in North Carolina will go into effect on Feb. 2, 2011. Read more at WUNC.

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