DNA testing and fingerprinting become more accessible
and admissible in courtrooms and in criminal trials,
many law enforcement agencies are considering taking
a DNA sample after each arrest. The sample, which
will be kept on file for future reference, would be
used to identify suspects and deter future crimes.
Samples of the DNA would be gathered via a cotton
swab to the mouth.
York City Police commissioner Howard Safir announced his
goal to fingerprint every person arrested for both felonies
and misdemeanors alike. Although the cost of the project
approaches $18 million, the effects, he says, are well
worth the money. The State of Louisiana passed a similar
law allowing police to take DNA samples from those arrested.
Other states already take samples from sex offenders.
States Attorney General Janet Reno has launched an inquiry
into the practicality and benefits of DNA fingerprint
databases under the National Commission on the Future
of DNA Evidence. The Commission's vie-chairman, James
Crow of the University of Wisconsin, says that DNA databases
would not only convict the guilty, but would protect the
innocent, as well. He supports his claim by illustrating
that over fifty cases - including those involving murder
and rape - were reversed after DNA evidence was admitted.
everyone supports the usage of DNA databases. The American
Civil Liberties Union opposes all efforts to collect DNA
from every person arrested. Barry Steinhardt, associate
director of the ACLU, believes that placing "the
most intimate of secrets of our lives" in government-controlled
databases is not only dangerous, but unconstitutional.
Norman Iegal of the New York Civil Liberties Union said,
"The major fallacy is that [people] equate fingerprinting
with DNA. Taking a DNA sample is more intrusive than fingerprinting,
and it reveals a person's complete genetic makeup."
National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence is expected
to report its findings soon.