Do People Have a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in Abandoned DNA?

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7 Responses

  1. Mark says:

    Why exactly are we worried about this? The fourth amendment is mainly prophylactic, you can’t abuse the rights of the guilty because sometimes you will be violating the rights of the innocent, but here there is no harm to an innocent person ever from collecting their DNA off something they have discarded.

    The cops collecting used cigarette butts does not raise create the same type of concerns that are raised by other searches (like raids of homes of innocent people) because if the person’s DNA does not match the DNA at the crime scene the police will not arrest you. I guess if you decide to kill someone or commit some other crime you will have to be a bit more cautious about how you get rid of your DNA.

    I realize that I am being a little flippant, but I really do not understand what the privacy concern is here.

  2. Jason says:

    I think the major concern for me is not the collection of the evidence itself but the fact that the cops will be walking around with me all day just waiting for me to drop a cigarette butt, to throw out an empty Coke bottle, etc. I think the main post is right: the Fourth Amendment just doesn’t deal well with these new issues.

  3. Wouldn’t the fact that Gallego was an inconsiderate smoker AND a litterer provide more than enough probable cause to deserve whatever society can do to him.

    …and what’s the problem with the 4th – Justice Brennan would have just invoked the “living” constitution methodolgy and read whatever he thought needed read in. I’m sure you all can convince Justice Ginsburg or Breyer to do the same.

  4. steve says:

    Mark, I just want to make a small correction, which makes a big difference. The Fourth Amendment is NOT a prophylactic. It is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. The exclusionary remedy, which bars the use of evidence obtained through the violation of the Fourth Amendment, is a prophylactic. But if it is inconsistent with my reasonable expectations of privacy under the Fourth Amendment to have the police collect my DNA, it is a constitutional problem, regardless of whether I’m guilty of a crime.

  5. The biggest threat I see to the innocents is that if this continues to be allowed, it opens the door to mass collection of DNA. This is a huge privacy intrusion in and of itself, but also creates a whole host of risks of abuse and leaks of highly personal information that cannot be changed if compromised.

  6. Mark says:

    Steve, you are correct, but I think you are going to have a real hard time trying to argue that someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy in their litter. Logical Extremes, I do think that the creation of a database of everyone’s DNA would be troubling, but I don’t think it would be unconstitutional. I guess it is a good thing we still vote.

  7. Jesse says:

    came home from a 2 day getaway in new york and found that my house was on fire. call the fire department and they came with the police. The fire were put out and I and my wife was interogated. We told them that we had just gotten home. They took stuff out of the house and I ask if I could take pictures and they told me no. They had my wife to sign a statement and when she ask for a copy, they told her that they wasn’t going to give her one. Is any of this unconstitutional or has our fourth amendment been violated in any way? Please help if possible.