MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Opinion

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.”

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