A few weeks ago, I posted on a proposal that would expand Georgia’s DNA database that was introduced by State Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna). The proposal would require anyone arrested of a felony to submit a DNA sample.
A person arrested for an alleged offense has not yet been proved to have done anything wrong. He’s had no day in court, no chance to defend himself, and been afforded no opportunity to challenge the charges against him. Arrest in our state as in many others, can rest on a foundation no stronger than a fellow citizen’s opinion; perhaps one bearing a grudge. All those important, time-honored and constitutionally-based limits on government-coerced evidence are undercut by forced collection of a person’s most private information at the start of the process rather than at the end.
While Rep. Teilhet obviously has read the current law in Georgia regarding collection of DNA samples from felons (since his proposal refers to the existing statute), perhaps others who might support his bill are not yet familiar with the already-extensive database of DNA information maintained by Georgia. For example, anybody convicted of a serious offense of a sexual nature, as well as anyone incarcerated for a felony or those on probation for serious offenses, is already required to give their DNA to the state.
Teilhet, like other DNA-database advocates, attempts to sooth his critics by claiming the legislation he pushes provides adequate protection against improper use or dissemination of the DNA information, and for removing the information if a person is not later convicted. Closer examination of the current law and of Teilhet’s proposed expansion of it, however, shows clearly the “protections” are inadequate. Information collected now or under Teilhet’s legislation would be available to virtually any law enforcement or prosecution agency requesting it. And, removing the information from the database if the person is later exonerated depends solely on the person himself having the knowledge and resources to seek such remedy, rather than being the responsibility of the government itself to correct its mistake.
HB 1033 is a constitutional wolf in sheep’s clothing and should not become law.
Teilhet’s bill should be killed and voters should remember his assaults on basic constitutional protections in November.