A controversial bill in Oklahoma would allow police to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested on felony charges, even before they're convicted of a crime.
Opponents of the legislation have condemned the legislation as another Orwellian affront to privacy rights and asserted that DNA collection will enable the government to discriminate against the accused in a variety of ways, according to News 9.
DNA analysis, however, has been integral in allowing police and prosecutors to accurately implicate guilty individuals, and -- perhaps even more importantly -- exonerate innocent individuals. Who has not heard a story of someone who was accused of a crime and sent to prison for years, if not decades, only to later be released due to DNA evidence?
This is why the Oklahoma legislation -- as long as police and prosecutors handle DNA evidence in an objective and lawful way -- will ultimately help innocent citizens. This bill should be viewed not as an infringement on people's rights but as a useful tool to prevent wrongful convictions.
It is also in line with a Supreme Court decision from June 2013, in which members of the court ruled that taking DNA evidence from felony arrestees is permissible, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The Court heard the case of Alonzo King, who was arrested in 2009 for brandishing a shotgun. King received a life sentence after law enforcement matched his DNA to a rape victim from 2003. He appealed the decision, saying that police had no prior basis to suspect him of the rape.
However, the Court ruled that DNA evidence is useful in assessing the identity of the arrested individual and determining if he or she should be granted bail.
And while opponents of this practice said it violates privacy rights, they don't say the same of fingerprinting -- a procedure that police use in essentially the same manner as DNA samples. The main difference, however, is crucial: DNA provides greater accuracy than fingerprinting, a fact that strengthens -- not detracts -- from the necessity of this legislation.
Also, as far as the Oklahoma bill is concerned, samples are not immediately stored in a database before conviction. The bill requires it to be stored at a place of booking until law enforcement has enough evidence to go to trial, News 9 reports. Thus, the DNA sample is used as another piece of evidence rather than a tool for discrimination.
Overall, use of DNA evidence in investigations cuts down on the uncertainty regarding the identity of offenders and gives law enforcement better information about arrested individuals and whether they are innocent or not. Greater use of it will allow law enforcement agencies to both free up resources for other purposes and protect the innocent.