Supreme Court decision on DNA will make society safer | Editorial

Fingerprints are an essential tool in law enforcement. If you’re arrested for a serious crime, a technician rolls ink on your fingers and presses an image onto paper. You don’t get a say in the matter.

The reason is that the prints not only can link a person to a crime under investigation, but also other crimes committed elsewhere.

On Monday this week, the US Supreme Court gave law enforcement an even better tool to do its job: DNA samples. As other commentators have said about the decision, it’s a “thumbs up” for public safety.

While fingerprints are an excellent means of identification, there is a problem. Surgery that causes deep scarring or diseases such as leprosy can damage the ridges of skin that make the prints. DNA can’t be changed.

Just this year the Belevue Police Department got a DNA hit on a 32-year-old cold case that led to an arrest. Bellevue Police continued to investigate the case even after it went cold, but the break came when the man’s DNA was collected last year alongside other sexually violent offenders at the McNeil Island Special Commitment Center.

The Supreme Court decision wasn’t unanimous, but on a 5-4 vote with the majority seeing the procedure as a logical extension of fingerprints. Opponents see the decision as allowing unwarranted search of a person and a step toward DNA being used for reasons beyond law enforcement.

The Maryland law under consideration by the court is clear that the DNA is to be used for identification only.Everyone’s DNA history is not going to become part of a database.

The courts have the power to contain the use of DNA. Allowing it to help solve crimes and catch criminals is a logical extension of the use of fingerprints and will make society safer.


– Craig Groshart, Bellevue Reporter

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