In a close (5-4) decision, the Supreme Court narrowly ruled on Monday that police may legally collect DNA from those arrested for but not convicted of a serious crime. According to the New York Times, the federal government already authorizes the practice, as do 28 states, but nevertheless, the ruling has sent shivers up the spines of civil liberties proponents. Although those convicted of felonies already have their DNA collected for cataloging in criminal databases, this latest finding of the court essentially puts DNA in a similar category as fingerprints, which are taken the moment someone is booked.
Opponents have noted that this ruling gives law enforcement the right to invade one's physical body without actually convicting said individual of any crime. For anyone who has a problem with officers frisking someone who has not been convicted of a crime, having an officer swab DNA will likely not be a welcome addition to the criminal-justice arsenal.
It is rare that the court's most conservative member, Antonin Scalia, finds himself the ally of the court's liberal wing or the hero of civil libertarians, but both happened this week because of his impassioned dissent against this ruling. He wrote, "Solving crimes is a noble objective but it occupies a lower place in the American pantheon of noble objectives than the protection of our people from suspicionless law enforcement searches. The Fourth Amendment must prevail."