Taking DNA With No Search Warrant: That's a Problem

Justice Antonin Scalia (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
Justice Antonin Scalia (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson discusses his problems with the Supreme Court's recent ruling that permits police to take DNA samples from anyone who commits a serious crime. In an unusual position for him, Robinson agrees with dissenting conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

The words "Antonin Scalia was right" do not flow easily for me. But the court's most uncompromising conservative, who wrote a withering dissent, was correct when he issued a dire-sounding warning from the bench: "Make no mistake about it: As an entirely predictable consequence of today's decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason." …

I realize that the law must come to terms with DNA and its unique power as evidence. I realize this will be an awkward and uncomfortable process. But we should move forward with both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution in mind. As Scalia noted, the Founders "would not have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection."

In that spirit, before we give police such a broad right to compel DNA testing to put individuals in prison, we should at least guarantee that individuals who are incarcerated have a similar right to DNA testing that might exonerate them. And we should be honest about why we're making people say "Aah."


Read Eugene Robinson's entire piece at the Washington Post.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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