CA's Prop 69 (the DNA samples from lawbreakers) pays off!

Here is a result of the California ballot initiative that passed last fall that mandated DNA samples be collected from every person convicted of a felony in the state.

I seem to recall there was some wailing and gnashing of teeth on these boards about how this was a terrible invasion of privacy.

I just thought it would be relevant to point out the first documented success of the program.

The problem most of us had with the law was that it required the taking of DNA from people charged with crimes, not just those convicted of crimes.

Your link requires registration, so I didn’t read it, but was the person in question actually convicted of the crime for which his DNA was taken? If so, then the law could have been changed w/o any effect in this case. But I’d still be against that particular law even if that weren’t true. I can think of lots of laws, such as mandatory curfews for all adults, that would reduce crime, but wouldn’t be compatible with a free society.

Well to be fair, that wasn’t the main objection to the bill. My main objection to Prop 69 is the next phase of the bill, which requires DNA samples from all people arrested (not convicted) for felonies. I fully support the first provision, its the latter provision that bothers me. I’m unsurprised that the database has already resulted in an arrest.

Ah, so civil liberties are optional, so long as they result in more crimes being solved.

So why not get a DNA sample from every person who wants a state ID card or a drivers’ license? That would be ok, because it would result in more crimes being solved, I’m sure.

I bet a national registry of every fire-arm in the country would help solve a crime or two also. I wonder how many supporters of the DNA registry would favor that idea.

Here’s one.

As long as registering your firearm in the national registry is not a thinly-veiled method of burdening your right to own firearms… such as charging an exorbitant fee or limiting the number of entries you may have – I’m all for it.

Yes, it would. And why not? We could get fingerprints from every person who wants a state ID card. Your only objection ot DNA seems to be that it works better in identifying people.

My objection is that it contains a HELL of a lot more info about you, as a person, than does a fingerprint. Again, take DNA from convicted criminals, but not from someone who should be assume inocent.

I’m against fingerprints on ID cards, too. I don’t think the state should have any biometric data on file unless that person has committed a crime. And the files for criminals should be destroyed a set period of time after they have served their sentence, with perhaps some leeway for those convincted of crimes with a high recidivism rate (but each case should be handled individually and the bar set high).

As it is, your OP set up something of a non-sequiter. You say, “Well, there are people opposed to this because they think it’s an infringement of civil liberties, but look, it’s already caught a criminal.” That’s all well and good, but it still doesn’t address the civil liberties aspect.

Good point. My thread was not intended to defeat an argument that didn’t exist, but merely to point out that the idea’s usefulness has now transitioned from the theoretical to the real. By suggesting that this was other than tangentially relevant to the civil liberty argument, I was strawmanning. My bad.

I have to agree here. Cost-benefit analysis isn’t the most important consideration necessarily, and constitutional questions must be addressed.

If it were a convicted felon - no problem. These folks have ceded certain freedoms for a duration set by a court, and that duration can be the rest of their lives. Collecting a DNA sample from a felon presents no constitutional problem to be, because a felon has a far lower reasonable expectation of privacy.

For everyone else, DNA collection had better be for a compelling reason. Courts can currently order a sample, can’t they? Why isn’t this enough?

Hey, I know! Why don’t we install tracking chips in everyone who wants a state ID? It will record where you are at every minute of the day through communication with monitors set up along the street. If you’re not doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t worry about it.

Better yet! Let’s tattoo a serial number on the forehead of every person who wants a state ID! That way, passersby will be able to identify the criminal by code. Of course, this number will not be able to be covered up by makeup or hair, since it will be equipped with a heat-producing science fiction-style ink that will burn up any cloaking device. Don’t fret about the cosmetic problems: since everyone will have one it won’t be considered ugly or gross. And as long as you aren’t committing crimes you shouldn’t worry about it.

Okay, I’ve got an even better one! Let’s amp up the science fiction technology and install monitors that record everyone’s memories! That way, the state will be able to locate those people whose memories include the killing of another person and arrest that person immediately. It won’t record thoughts, just actions, so as long as you haven’t done anything wrong you shouldn’t worry about it.

And if you think these three scenarios are wrong, why isn’t collecting a DNA sample from everyone who wants an ID?

Because people get stirred up into a frenzy over law-and-order issues too easily. As my mother loved to say: if you’re not guilty of anything, what do you have to hide…?

Is there a way to collect select DNA info from a person, such that it is useful for uniquely identifying people, but contains only a very limited subset of a person’s DNA, and so no other information about that person (like susceptibility to heart disease, schizophrenia, etc) ?

I’d like to know how many other dopers have DNA on file with the government.

Somewhere in a government storeroom is a card with a gauze section that was saturated with a small sample of my blood. It was collected in the mid-1990’s and will probably outlive me.

So this may be a theoretical exercise for some of you, but for me it involves a real chunk of me that’s out there somewhere that I have no control over. And while I’m not overly paranoid about it, I don’t want the fact that this sample exists to be abused in any way.

Interesting idea, and I assume it should be possible. Not the collecting part, since you have to collect an entire cell, but you might be able to store only the info on one (or just a few) chromosome(s). Keep in mind, though, that we don’t know what all the genes do, so there’s no way of knowing what we’ve kept and what we’ve thrown out. Also, I assume that the more chromosomes you use, the higher the probability of knowing if there is a match or not. You would trade off some accuracy, but I’m not sure how much. I’ll bet if this question were posted in GQ, one of our resident experts would have the answer.


“There was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about warrantless house-to-house searches, but look! We found this spoon!”

Inapposite analogy on both ends.

Wow, this could only have been more irrelevant if you posted it in Urdu.

Warrantless house-to-house searches=great invasion of personal privacy. DNA=Not so much.

Found a spoon=relatively little benefit to crimefighting
Caught a rapist/murder who was wandering around free= relatively great benefit for society.

Let me know how those Urdu lessons go.


What is to prevent a corrupted official with access to the DNA samples from using them to frame someone, pehaps as a vendetta, or to cover his own crime, or in the acceptance of a bribe?