Maryland’s Court of Appeals recently ruled that collecting DNA from criminal suspects — suspects, mind you — after being charged violates their constitutional rights. And now it seems everyone — Gov. Martin O’Malley, as well as “police chiefs and prosecutors from the D.C. suburbs to Baltimore County” — is asking Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler to challenge the decision, and defend the brave new world that is the routine DNA harvesting of citizens not convicted of a crime.
Sure, it looks like it’s inevitable that one day we will trade in our social security cards for electronic tracking devices implanted in our skulls, but can we at least try to stem the tide a little bit? Do we really want to jump face first into a dystopian future?
Of course, proponents of DNA collection of criminal suspects argue that it helps detectives solve crimes, terrible crimes like rape or murder. But the challenge for law enforcement agencies has always been to track down criminals while not infringing on our constitutional rights. That’s not new. What’s new is the opportunistic collection of DNA.
Gov. Martin O’Malley likes to present himself as “tough on crime,” but perhaps “tough on privacy” would be more to the point.