No doubt, DNA testing can help solve, and has, many crimes. It's revolutionized forensic work. Yet we're uncomfortable with compelling someone to provide a DNA sample before guilt has been established.
The argument can be made that if you haven't done anything wrong, you shouldn't have a problem with an officer running a swab along the inside of your cheek. On the other hand, isn't this a country that believes in innocence until proven otherwise?
Supporters of taking DNA from arrestees highlight its successes. Since 2003, Stateline.org reports, DNA samples from arrestees in Virginia have matched forensic evidence in 755 open cases. In New Mexico, arrestee DNA has helped with 200 felony cold cases since 2007. Yet defense attorneys in the Maryland case noted that of the 10,666 samples the state took in 2011, only 19 led to arrests, and nine of those arrested were later convicted.
Bob Ravitz, Oklahoma County's chief public defender, voiced his concern in 2009 to the widening DNA net. “The end result is I guess you could take almost anybody's DNA,” Ravitz said. Eventually, he said, the only issue becomes “at what time does it invade our privacy sufficiently that we're going to get upset about it? Is it where somebody's arrested? Is it where somebody goes to school? Or where somebody's born?”
The Supreme Court may soon help answer some of those questions.