, Muskogee, OK

March 10, 2014

Right move on DNA searches

— Our elected representatives did the right thing last week when they refused to require people arrested for certain crimes to give DNA samples for a law enforcement database.

The Oklahoma House voted down the bill 51-35. Bravo.

Criminals are already required to submit DNA after conviction in Oklahoma.

Anyone can be arrested. Our legal system starts with a presumption of innocence. This bill would have been a major shift away from that.

 Under the Fourth Amendment, a warrant is required to search for and seize evidence. Warrants require probable cause, which includes a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed and that the subject of the warrant may have been the person who committed it.

Warrants must come from judges, giving the innocent a layer of protection against potentially overzealous law enforcement officers.

This law would have pushed back the protections of vital rights in a free society.

The motivation for the bill is emotionally compelling — the identifying of perpetrators of unsolved violent crimes.

Justice for the victims of crimes, protection for society from evildoers — it is hard to argue against the motives. If I have nothing to hide, why should it bother me? But rights are too easily eroded by fear.

We must protect the other guy’s rights in a free society. It is part of what defines our nation and our state.

As Justice Antonin Scalia said in his dissent in a recent Supreme Court case, “Solving unsolved crimes is a noble objective, but it occupies a lower place in the American pantheon of noble objectives than the protection of our people from suspicionless law-enforcement searches.”