Appeals to emotion make bad law

Why do we have the Fourth Amendment? Why do we have civil rights at all? Those laws only serve to stop the police and prosecutors from doing their job and protecting us from the riffraff of society. If I am suspected of a crime, the police should be allowed to enter my home and make sure I am not up to no good. I should submit my smartphone and computer to the civil magistrate to search on command, and I should be happy to do so as I have nothing to hide. Do you object to this? Well, it’s easy to talk about rights of privacy and illegal searches when it’s not your loved ones who suffered. Have you no compassion?

For those who do not get it (and it is unfortunate that I have to be so explicit) the above paragraph is sarcasm. The italicized portion above is a direct quote from a comment on my letter to the editor a few weeks ago. When it was posted, it was written without a hint of sarcasm.

Sex offenses fill us with a unique form of revulsion, and justifiably so. When someone is sexually violated, it is an especially heinous and evil form of victimization. Therefore, we have (again justifiably) sought special penalties in the law to fight against these crimes and to catch and punish the perpetrators and protect society from them. Many of these protections are problematic, but I want to focus on one specific bad proposal: The mandate that every single person arrested for a felony submit a DNA sample. The DNA would be checked against DNA found at unsolved crimes and then could solve them and bring the perpetrator to justice.

The problem here is mandatory collection of bodily fluids is an especially invasive and personal search, and it is almost certain that the framers of our Constitution would have been appalled at the idea of collecting it from everyone. One not need to expect that we will turn into a science fiction dystopia like the movie Gattaca to recognize why this is wrong.

Furthermore, this legislation casts a much bigger net than simply catching sex offenders or perpetrators of other violent crimes. For example, check deception can be a felony in the state of Indiana. Do we really need to collect a DNA sample on someone who wrote a bad check? Will collecting DNA from someone who embezzled money from his employer be likely to bring forth evidence that will solve a rape or murder? Should this raise red flags? Do we really need to ask these questions?

The answer is obvious. If the police believe that someone’s DNA could lead to solving a crime, they can ask for a search warrant to get a sample. There is no need for additional legislation and no need to violate the privacy rights of every single person arrested for a felony. Remember, not everyone arrested is convicted or even charged with a crime! We should not listen to appeals to emotion about loved ones suffering, and instead protect our liberty from an intrusive state government.

One thought on “Appeals to emotion make bad law

  1. I happen to agree with you completely, but someone is going to point out that DNA collection is painless and takes but a moment with a cotton swab, just as people do for one of the mail-order DNA analysis companies that are online and advertising on TV.
    I also expect it to be just a short hop to the argument that since you voluntarily gave DNA to Ancestry.com or 33 and me, or whatever they're called, you shouldn't object to giving it to the government. The same argument I've heard for why you should not object to giving your SSN in a deposition.
    Privacy is the 21st century myth.

    Like

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