Transcript: Episode 54 (Cheek Swabbing)

Virginia: Tonight we’re going to talk about cheek swabs.

Nick: Everybody backed away and got really silent.

Virginia: I’m scared now.  It feels like I did something wrong.

Nick: We’re going to talk about how the Supreme Court ruled that it is legal to swab your cheek and run it against a DNA database.

Leland: Against your will.

Nick: If you are arrested, no matter how trumped up the charges.

Virginia: Do they keep the data?

Nick: Of course.  It’s just like a thumbprint.

Leland: It’s just a better thumbprint.

Nick: Because DNA never gets misused.

Katie: Let me just ask really quick.  What’s the background.  The court case is Maryland vs. King.  Does anyone know the backstory?

Nick: They went to a lower court, and King won because they didn’t have a legitimate warrant.  They won in appeals.

Katie: Here it is.  In 2009, Alonso King was arrested in Maryland.  He was charged with first and second degree assault for menacing a group of people with a shotgun.  As part of routine booking procedure, his DNA was taken by using a cotton swab or filter paper.

Virginia: Wait.  It’s routine to take DNA?

Katie: “As part of a routine booking procedure for serious offenses, his DNA was taken.  The DNA was found to match the DNA taken from a rape victim.”  So he was tried and convicted for the rape, even though he was taken in for another crime.  I’m reading this from the Supreme Court opinion.

Virginia: So, basically this has become standard policy?  Everybody who has been arrested since this became routine has had their DNA taken?

Nick: In that area.  It’s not statewide.

Leland: But now…

Virginia: It’s national policy.

Leland: Well, it’s legal now.

Virginia: Which means it will soon become national policy.

Katie: It’s not just national.  Here’s an article from England.  They are taking about how 3,947 youngsters below the age of 17 had their DNA swabbed without parental consent.  It will be stored indefinitely there.  I thought it was interesting.

Nick: It’s really scary.  You don’t know what they’re going to use that for.  I don’t trust the administrations that will come in the future.

Katie: The Fourth Amendment doesn’t change from administration to administration.

Leland: I don’t know if you should be able to make another person’s cells property.  Granted, we’re not talking about them taking your finger.  But, they are taking a part of you.  When they take your cells at a crime scene, they are taking a part of you.  But, I would argue that that’s something you willingly left behind.

Virginia: Not if you’re a good criminal.

Leland: Fair enough.  If you touch a surface with your bare hand, you should know that you’re leaving cells behind.

Virginia: I’m just picturing the school where all of these criminals are going, “Uh huh.  Do not touch surfaces with my bare hands.  Got it.”

Leland: If the government owns the cells, then it can keep them in a repository.

Virginia: To me, it’s an extension of an ID.

Katie: Here’s a CNN health article from 2010.  In many states, like Florida, their baby’s DNA is being stored in a government lab.

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