"Such screenings are common in Britain, with more than 100 carried out in the last five years."
April 8, 2000 1:18 AM   Subscribe

"Such screenings are common in Britain, with more than 100 carried out in the last five years." You know, guns and lawyers and creationists notwithstanding, sometimes I'm really glad I live in the US and not in places that don't have a Bill of Rights.

A mass genetic screening like this would be a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

While genetic testing is permitted here, it can only be done on a suspect when there's reasonable cause to believe that that particular suspect is guilty of the crime. It requires a search warrant.

And that, in my opinion, is how it should be.
posted by Steven Den Beste (5 comments total)
Villagers were free to refuse the test, and Assistant Police Commissioner Clive Small has said those choosing not to come forward will not automatically be thought of as a suspect.

But that argument was rejected by New South Wales state lawmaker Richard Jones.

"The DNA testing at Wee Waa is not really voluntary because any person who refuses to do it will obviously be deemed to be guilty by the rest of the community," he said.

This sounds like the British Police asked if they could test for DNA, and didn't' force anyone, which could still happen here. The power of peer pressure.

posted by alana at 8:10 AM on April 8, 2000

In Britain, you can't be convicted on DNA evidence alone, while the 100+ mass screenings were aimed to eliminate suspects. And I can't remember hearing of the finger of suspicion falling on those who refused to participate.

That said, you're right about the insidious moves towards a national DNA database, which is depicted along the lines of "well, you'd only be concerned if you had something to hide." We've done without identity cards for this long, so I certainly don't feel the need to have my DNA profiled.
posted by holgate at 8:57 AM on April 8, 2000

America is more of a police state than anywhere else in the developed world... so stop calling the kettle black.
posted by tranquileye at 6:55 AM on April 9, 2000

Alan, New South Wales is in AUSTRALIA.

It is correct that this kind of testing of an entire group of non-suspects is generally unconstitutional in the US. Genetic testing of suspects requires a judicial hearing and search warrant. There have been several cases where DNA evidence was acquired in an underhanded manner (e.g. "testing for AIDS"), and sometimes convictions based on that DNA evidence are thrown out. There isn't yet a consensus, though. Several states have expanded DNA testing of convicted felons still in the prison system, and generally if you are DNA tested in one crime, even if you're exonerated, the police have the right to re-use the results of that test in a future investigation. It's a bit like a fingerprint in that respect.

The basic issue from a US legal point of view is that a fingerprint is outside the body, but getting a DNA sample is considered an invasive medical procedure. That makes it a bit harder for the police to get.

In any event, case law is still evolving in this area. Can we not have a "my country is better than your country" flamewar?
posted by dhartung at 1:59 PM on April 9, 2000

I apologize for the flavor of the "my country is better" in this, but I must admit to having been rankled a bit by a few comments recently by British posters about how crazy Americans are.

I will resist the urge in future.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 4:07 PM on April 9, 2000

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