The Norman Transcript


December 22, 2013

Should Oklahoma collect DNA of arrestees?



If the bill passes, the number of tests would likely increase, although exactly how many is unknown because many arrestees are ultimately convicted and have their DNA collected anyway.

Last year, about 24,400 arrests, including repeat offenders, were made in Oklahoma for the FBI index crimes of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson, according to FBI data. For all crimes, there were 142,976 arrests.

Civil-rights issue

Advocates of obtaining DNA from arrestees say it will help solve serious crimes. They equate taking a simple cheek swab from a suspect to taking fingerprints. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the court’s majority opinion that the practice “is a reasonable search that can be considered part of a routine booking procedure.”

Civil-rights advocates view the effort as invasive, pointing out that suspects are innocent until proven guilty and a database of many Americans’ DNA could lead to abuses. African-Americans also could be disproportionately affected because they are arrested more often, opponents warn.

“This will solve some extra crimes, to be sure. But so would taking your DNA whenever you fly on an airplane,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in dissent.

In most states that collect DNA upon arrest, the DNA is supposed to be expunged if charges are dismissed or the suspect is acquitted. But in 18 states the accused must initiate the expungement, and few expungements occur in those states, according to study released in May by the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C., group.

In Oklahoma, Jolley’s bill didn’t outline expungement requirements, stating that those rules would be set by the OSBI.

Brady Henderson, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said the group sees a big distinction between gathering DNA from suspects in rape and murder cases, where DNA can play a vital role in proving the case, and collecting it from the accused in a wide variety of crimes.

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