The Obama administration added that the government's interest in solving crimes outweighs the right to keep personal genetic information secret. "The government — and society at large — has an overwhelming interest in solving crimes," which not only helps victims but also exonerates the innocent, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. wrote in court papers.
Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union see DNA evidence as a slippery slope, however.
"In less than 25 years CODIS has expanded from including samples only from persons convicted of serious felonies, to the now-routine collection of DNA from persons convicted of any felony, to samples from persons who have not been convicted of anything but have merely been arrested for minor offenses," said Michael T. Risher, lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California.
He said that expansion is best seen in California, which seizes and searches the DNA of everyone arrested for any felony — leading it to have the third-largest DNA database in the world, after the United States and the United Kingdom.
"The brightest, most fundamental line in our criminal justice system is the one that separates those who have been convicted of a crime from those who are presumed innocent," Risher said. If the government can cross that line to collect DNA, the database can grow without limit, he said.
Governments rarely get rid of the samples once they have them. Only nine states that collect DNA from arrestees automatically expunge samples from individuals who are not eventually convicted, court papers said. "The other states and the federal government retain these samples even when the subject has never been convicted, or even charged, of any crime," he said.