by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted August 2, 2007 in DNA and the Law, Polls About DNA
This morning I spent a couple of hours at my local West London high road shopping and hanging out at the park with my kindergartener. Little did I know that the police could have been following my every move, collecting my fingerprints, DNA, footwear impressions, photographs, and other samples that I might have left behind on discarded drink bottles or candy wrappers. I say “could have been” because the scenario is unlikely. For now.
The UK Home Office is planning to give police the power to collect DNA samples off anything on the street without first arresting and bringing the suspect in to a police station. That means they can collect your DNA without your knowledge from any bodily samples you leave behind in public. Police in the US have been secretly collecting “abandoned” DNA from suspects for some time to convict criminals who might have never been caught otherwise.
Professor Elizabeth Joh of the University of California Law School says that police treat abandoned DNA the same as they would trash, which is searchable without a warrant. Itâ€™s your fault if you leave your DNA in a public place.
If we look at this kind of evidence as abandoned, then it really permits the police to collect DNA from anyone â€” not just cold case issues â€” from anyone at any time and really for no good reason or any reason at all.
In addition to collecting abandoned DNA, police will also be allowed to take DNA samples from people for violating minor laws, such as littering, speeding, or not using seatbelts. Yes, they’re waving that buccal brush at YOU!
The UK national DNA database is already the largest in the world with over 5% of the population registered. If these new regulations are approved, the volume of DNA samples will swell. The US is already experiencing a shortage of trained lab technicians to process a far fewer number of DNA samples. Is the UK prepared?
Do you think the police should be allowed to take DNA samples anywhere they want? Take the poll!
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