Tennessee blogger and tea party activist Ken Marrero has an op-ed in the Washington Examiner that criticizes Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s proposal to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony.
Present law in Tennessee requires that police obtain samples only from suspects arrested under suspicion of committing a violent felony, according to the General Assembly’s legislative summary of Ramsey’s bill, SB257.
Ramsey’s suggested changes would require a biological sample be taken in all felony arrests as “a condition of the person’s release on bond or recognizance.”
If charges are dropped or the accused is not convicted, the sample is destroyed. Detractors see this as an acknowledgment of the bill’s weakness. If the criteria for sample retention is a conviction, why not delay collection until then?
Marrero, who blogs at Blue Collar Muse, worries that Ramsey’s bill represents yet another step away from the bedrock constitutional principle in this country that one is innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, writes Marrero, does anyone really believe the government can be trusted to actually get rid of all record of the samples in the event that an arrest proves wrongful? Also, what happens to the samples in the interim?
Technical innovation is welcomed by the law abiding. But I cannot sanction violating one law while enforcing another. The pursuit of justice must not itself create injustices and securing the rights of the people must remain the highest priority of government.
In a rapidly changing technical environment and with the ability of multiple jurisdictions to pass laws concerning the collection and use of DNA, extreme vigilance must be maintained to ensure the rights and liberties of Americans are not trampled in the process.
SB257 hasn’t yet received a hearing. Its companion bill in the House of Representatives is sponsored by Bristol Republican John Lunberg.