The Props: 69 NO -- DNA Collecting

Here's a referendum in keeping with our times. Prop 69 would empower government agencies to take DNA samples involuntarily from all current incarcerees and anyone arrested anytime anywhere for anything in the future. The data could be stored forever. And note that's arrested, whether or not the individual is actually charged and tried for a crime. This data would become part of what they used to like to call in grammar school your permanent record, even if you were completely innocent.

Although language in the proposal says that an investigating agency must notify the medical lab that a person is no longer a suspect and that the specimens of DNA, blood, fingerprints, etc., must be expunged, this provision kicks in two years after the sample is submitted, so a person who was arrested and immediately cleared could still have samples floating around for up to two years. And that's if you believe the government will follow its own procedures. Not only are there no penalties if it doesn't, but the measure specifically says that matches made after the data should have been removed would still be valid for warrants and other actions by police and prosecutors. There are no penalties for mistakes, either, so authorities needn't worry about being careful.

The information collected from the guilty and the innocent alike would be stored in a single database. It isn't hard to imagine a scenario in which would occur the kinds of "mistakes" that, in Florida in 2000 and, apparently, again this year, caused thousands of guiltless citizens to be falsely labeled as felons and thus to wrongly lose their right to vote.

When it comes to police power, it is better to err on the side of too little than too much. Intrusive government access to the DNA data of ordinary citizens is a power we are safer not granting to the state, at least until there are absolutely ironclad safeguards in place to prevent misuse. Prop 69 comes nowhere near meeting that criterion. NO.

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