Hostility to Liberty Part of Government’s DNA

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.”

Writes Marrero:

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.

  • http://bluecollarmuse.com Blue Collar Muse

    Mark,

    Thanks for the mention of the Op-Ed and for more publicity for this issue.

    I’d like to drop a quick comment in here to clear up a small incorrect depiction of my position. You wrote, “Furthermore, writes Marrero, does anyone really believe the government can be trusted to actually get rid of all record of the samples?” This could be taken to mean that I don’t trust government to obey the law and that I don’t think anyone else does either.

    Certainly Lt. Governor Ramsey is on record as believing the government will abide by the law and I agree with him. Government, for the most part, behaves responsibly. But the possibility exists for it not to and it should be watched. However, there are folks who believe otherwise, who have an inherent mistrust of government and they openly question its commitment to follow the law. There is certainly evidence out there which supports their contention.

    My position would be more accurately depicted as Reagan’s “Trust, but verify!” The consequences of government not following the law are serious enough that citizens should be ever vigilant concerning the possibility that government will misbehave. That is the only way the people’s Liberty can effectively be preserved.