I’m a TA for a moot court class this semester. Our case deals with whether taking DNA samples from felony arrestees is an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of their 4th Amendment rights. Our professor arranged a field trip to the Department of Justice’s DNA lab in the East Bay this afternoon and though I had to miss a half day of my externship to attend, it was incredibly informative and a very cool experience.
Not only did the presentation make our case feel more real, the facilities tour also let us see how the DNA swabs are collected and processed. Very cool indeed. The government argues that there is a minimal intrusion into an arrestee’s privacy interests and weighty legitimate state interests in solving cold cases, exonerating the innocent, and protecting the public. But, these are arrestees we are talking about here. These people have not been convicted of anything yet, and could very well end up not being convicted of anything at all. Their DNA will still be collected, processed, put in a database and searched against every week to see whether it matches any previous or just-committed crimes. The government also keeps the sample in perpetuity.
So, interesting points on either side. I’m a TA so I don’t have to pick a side or argue anything. :) It’s nice to sit back and enjoy the process.