GOP’s DNA bill offends Bill of Rights

What the one hand giveth, the other taketh away — words to live by for the Republican majority at the Georgia legislature; which, it seems, just cannot bear to see the power and control of state government lessened.

Last Wednesday, for example, many Georgians had their eyes fixed on the Georgia General Assembly as the Senate debated and subsequently passed SB 10 – legislation that allows local communities to chose whether or not to allow Sunday sales of alcohol. The passage of SB 10 was hailed as a victory for personal liberty; which it was – a baby step, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.

Yet, darned if shortly after passage of the alcohol bill, the Senate moved on SB 80, sponsored by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus) and backed by several of his Republican colleagues. This privacy-invasive, constitutionally-defective measure would authorize government agents to forcibly take a DNA sample from every person in Georgia who is arrested for a felony – not convicted, but merely arrested; and not just felonies for which DNA evidence is relevant, but for any felony.

If signed into law, this legislation would bring Georgia in line with two dozen other states and the federal government, by dramatically expanding the state’s DNA database. Through its enactment, this legislation would make Georgia yet another state in which the desire of law enforcement to gather as much information on as many people as possible, trumps the clear intent and purpose of the Constitution of the United States to protect citizens against unwarranted and unreasonable seizure of evidence against them.

It is not as if Georgia law enforcement agencies do not already have ample authority to collect DNA from persons convicted of major felonies in which DNA evidence may be relevant, including sex offenders. But that apparently is not enough for many current GOP legislators and some of their Democrat colleagues. And this is not the first time such a constitutionally-problematic measure has come before the General Assembly.

A similar proposal recently was pushed by former Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna), who last year mounted an unsuccessful campaign for Attorney General (ironically, the very office charged with protecting the civil liberties of Georgians). Now, the legislation is back; pushed by the Republican Party, which used to be a Party committed to limiting – not expanding – government power.

It also used to be a bedrock principle of our judicial system that a person was presumed innocent until proven guilty. Now, however, as reflected in this latest example of the perennial, Republican-led drive to “get tough on crime,” the government would only have to charge someone with an offense in order to demand access to the person’s most intimate and personal data – their DNA. The government would not even have to formally indict the person – much less convict them – in order to gain the treasure trove of information on them and their biological family that is contained in a person’s DNA.

Much like Teilhet’s proposal, SB 80 would permit individuals eventually not convicted of a felony or that have their charges reduced, to later petition that the state expunge the database of their DNA sample. Of course, that is assuming the exonerated individual has the resources and the knowledge to pursue such a time-consuming process; and that the data has not already been shared with federal or other states’ agencies.

Supporters of the bill claim that its passage could help solve crimes or exonerate individuals falsely convicted (as if the purpose of the bill is to help those accused of committing crimes). That may be; but at what price? The Fourth Amendment to our Constitution was not made a part of that magnificent document in order to make law enforcement’s job easier. It was placed there to protect people from the prying government – a fact and a history of which those who support SB 80 are either ignorant or uncaring.

By Bob Barr — The Barr Code

46 comments Add your comment

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 23rd, 2011
6:49 am

Good morning all. No strong thoughts on this one. The DNA testing is no more intrusive than fingerprinting, and like fingerprints it has no real commercial value in the event the data base is stolen from negligent overlords. Government can only use the DNA to solve a crime, so I just don’t see the unreasonableness of the search and seizure here. This bothers me less than cameras on every corner, and I am reconciled to that.

Flush with Flourish

March 23rd, 2011
7:20 am

So Barr is saying that after the Feds strip-searches us, (yes!), they’ll milk us for our DNA? I guess the right goodies are right-handy during any strip search.; AND it would save time. This reminds me of when I was married and the only time I saw my wife naked was when we were both in the doctors office getting a physical. (We had a two for one deal to save time and money with the MD, who was a woman, by the way). It was better than a menage a trois. A real head turner, it were. (cough, cough).

Did Bob Barr ever consider that maybe some of us would WANT to be stripped searched and then forced to secrete some DNA? (ew). What does Bob think the girls-gone-wild videos are 4?

No. He never considers anyone else but himself, his big brother, and a little guy named you-know-who. (which is why he gets another C+ for this editorial).



March 23rd, 2011
7:53 am

the Senate moved on SB 80, sponsored by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus) and backed by several of his Republican colleagues. This privacy-invasive, constitutionally-defective measure would authorize government agents to forcibly take a DNA sample from every person in Georgia who is arrested for a felony – not convicted, but merely arrested; Good don’t get arrested


March 23rd, 2011
8:02 am

“just cannot bear to see the power and control of state Govt. lessened”

There is certainly nothing new in this kind of thinking. Politics is all about power and this will never change. This law might do some good for now, but with our future becoming more and more in the control of genetic science, this might prove to be very bad. Big Brother wins again.

Blog Soup

March 23rd, 2011
8:08 am

Summarizing the blog scene. Cynthia Tucker is taking a few days. She should return soon with some aptly-phrased insights. (Lovin’ the T.) View from the cop is worth a look. This guy gets better and better. He does mention the cop/donut thing alot, though.

Over at Bookman, we witness an astonishing display of emotional self-therapy. Bookman starts out in the third person, and the suddenly, he shifts to the second person, and openly addresses the man he was reporting about. It was like witnessing the transition from Dr Jeckle into Mr. Heckle, (or something.)

Wooten continues his inexplicable foray into the vaguely-phrased, obliquely-referenced grind of the issues with little or no coloratura to riff off of.

(and That shuts me up).


March 23rd, 2011
8:31 am

Ghadafi’s warning to the west: “The West will end up in the dustbin of history”. Reagan’s warning to the Soviet’s evil empire: “The evil empire will end up on the trash heap of history”.

the watch dog

March 23rd, 2011
9:00 am

First taking DNA from those convicted of violent felonies, then taking DNA from those convicted of non violent felonies. Obviously, the fourth amendment rights are systematically being dismantled. At some point all citizens will be required to submit DNA.
The arrogance of power will have taken our most important rights away, the 4th Amendment rights.
We can afford no compromise, all citizens should declare their indignation over the usurping of power by those elected by them.
If not, the end result will be a demoralized society. One in which no future can be seen. First, small rights disappear, and then slowly but surely, they all disappear.


March 23rd, 2011
9:01 am

Two things – (1) With unemployment at 10+% in Georgia, Water woes, Schools at the bottom of the national list, housing tanking, the long term unemployed running out of benefits, people being evicted left and right for non-payment (back to the jobs thing) AND drugs and violence on the rise………WHY is the Georgia Senate talking about DNA testing? Is this a case of “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” in action?

(2) Barr: Now, the legislation is back; pushed by the Republican Party, which used to be a Party committed to limiting – not expanding – government power.

If ANY politician (but esp. the repubs.) want to “limit government power” then why don’t they vote themselves out of a job? Less representatives, congressman, etc., can go a long way in “limiting government power” (see comment “1″).

lynnie gal

March 23rd, 2011
9:04 am

I would usually rather us err on the side of personal privacy, but in this case, if gathering DNA does give us more certainty to the question of guilt or innocence of crimes on the level of felony, I have no argument with the law and think it may be justified.


March 23rd, 2011
9:20 am

For the record, DNA can be taken from blood or scraping of the inside of the cheek.

Karl Marx

March 23rd, 2011
9:21 am

Innocent until proven Guilty or was that Guilty until proven Innocent. The state Repub’s don’t know the difference.


March 23rd, 2011
9:23 am

“…pushed by the Republican Party, which used to be a Party committed to limiting – not expanding – government power.”

Bob the Republican Party has never been committed to limiting government power. The Republican Party has always talked about limiting government power but, since Hoover, they have always expanded government power. But a lot of people put faith in talk so they keep getting elected.

Ragnar – “and like fingerprints it has no real commercial value in the event the data base is stolen from negligent overlords.”

Rags, I would disagree. Every insurance company in the US engaged in the writing of health insurance policies, and maybe life insurance policies, would love to have every potential customer’s DNA. Their risk would really go down with DNA as a predictive model.


March 23rd, 2011
9:51 am

I am all for personal liberty. However DNA is just modern day fingerprinting. I guess if you are a conspiracy theorist you worry about the Insurance Companies, and others using DNA to rip off the customer, never mind that you are already subject to a full medial exam and blood testing as well as required to provide history. No the way I see this I don’t really care one way or the other. This is not the fight that I see worth fighting, you can’t track someone, we are not talking a chip implant here. We are talking about a way to identify people in a unique way. I am sure that when law inforcement starting taking finger prints that people Like Bob Barr screams too.


March 23rd, 2011
10:00 am

The GOP lives on fear, most of their followers are chickens.


March 23rd, 2011
10:21 am


I’m a Democrat, and I agree with you on this one. That makes it all the more puzzling why you would use the inflammatory (and incorrect) “Democrat” as an adjective instead of “Democratic.” Why push away people who support you?

Hillbilly Deluxe

March 23rd, 2011
10:28 am

I’m thinking you get fingerprinted when you get arrested in all 50 states. What’s the difference?

sean Yankee

March 23rd, 2011
10:31 am

The republicans are all for limiting government power when they dont have it.

Just like there all for reducing the deficit when they are not in charge, but when they have the federal credit card in hand its deficits in the trillions. such hypocrites.


March 23rd, 2011
10:56 am

Personal liberty is gradually eroding and before you know we will have none.


March 23rd, 2011
11:02 am

We live in a “Big Brother Control Government” so far from our Constitution and Bill of Rights. People WE have allowed these sicko’s in government to turn our sociality into a POLICE STATE.


March 23rd, 2011
11:03 am


You comments make me want to jump for joy! The GOP only talks about limiting government for business and the wealthy; that sentiment does not apply to the rest of the population, especially women of childbearing age. But Georgians never seem to grasp this concept that voting for republicans is against their own best interest.

Criminal Justice I Am

March 23rd, 2011
11:14 am

Hillbilly, fingerprinting an individual who gets arrested is a means of checking for outstanding warrants and verifying the identity of individuals who may have a conviction record. Fingerprints are not maintained once a person is cleared of wrongdoing. You are comparing apples to oranges.


March 23rd, 2011
11:15 am

“…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”–The Constitution

I am not an expert and not sure how the case law defines “liberty,” but as far as I am concerned, having The State in possession of your DNA is deprivation of liberty.

I think the Republicans are only seeing half the writing on the walls these days. People want the GOVERNMENT OUT OF THEIR LIVES and this is not limited to taxes and alcohol sales.

I Know You Are But What Am I

March 23rd, 2011
11:20 am

You can grab my package at the airport. You can arrest me in my boat on Lake Lanier because I don’t have a fishing license on my person.

You want my DNA? A fecal swab is all you’ll get from me.


March 23rd, 2011
11:20 am

It is a sad day when we are so afraid to live free that we are willing to give up our DNA. Come on this should not occur at least until someone is convicted of of a crime. Poor afraid Georgians!!

Bob Confuses Me

March 23rd, 2011
12:27 pm

Mr. Barr:
Who are you? As a lifelong GA Dem., I seem to remember you in office as the Homophobe-In-Chief, and an arbitrary conservative panderer. Since you’ve been out of office, I am less surprised every time I agree with your stance on something because it seems to happen so frequently.

I remember you spoke to a group of us at GSU COL [Federalists Society, maybe? (I was just there for the pizza, not the politics)]; you were talking about civil liberties and the Carnivore database, and I remember thinking “this guy is way too cool and smart to be a Georgia Republican – I bet he has no friends.” I guess maybe you are a Libertarian or something.

Anyway, regardless of your partisan politics, it is good to know there are a few intelligent guys hanging around the shadows of GA politics, and I hope you have freed yourself from some of the quirky conservative stances that framed you in the past.

You are dead right about this issue. At a time when everyone is looking for ways to make budget cuts, we have a proposed database that would cost millions to implement and just as much as to defend in court. The SCOTUS case law interpreting the 4th and 5th Amendments is entirely inconsistent with taking DNA from an individual at any stage of an investigation short of being arrested. The idea of creating a database for opportunistically collecting evidence and then investigating the evidence for crimes is backward and stupid, and completely constitutionally illegitimate. It is so dumb that it insults the intelligence of law enforcement officers who would be charged with collecting the evidence.

Keep up the good work, Bob.

Criminal Justice I Am

March 23rd, 2011
12:33 pm

Are we really all that free when we are too afraid to attend church without packing heat?

Bob Confuses Me

March 23rd, 2011
12:34 pm

My understanding of the proposed measure is that it would allow law enforcement officers to gather DNA evidence from someone if there was reasonable suspicion that they had committed any crime – even if they are ultimately not charged or indicted.

Bob Confuses Me

March 23rd, 2011
12:37 pm

I have no problem with extracting DNA from someone who has been arrested and charged through due process. However, the proposed measure would effectively allow collection of DNA at a point where there was simply reasonable suspicion that the individual had committed a crime, even if he or she is never actually charged/indicted.

Haas Maverick

March 23rd, 2011
12:42 pm

The proposed GA measure would allow DNA extraction from an individual for whom there was simply reasonable suspicion that they had committed any crime, even if they were never actually charged or indicted. This is absurd, but it could potentially stand up to constitutional scrutiny if it is corrected to require that the DNA donor at least be charged with a crime prior to the extraction.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 23rd, 2011
12:54 pm

Dear jconservative @ 9:23, good afternoon, you are correct, I concede. Of course, for someone like me with good genes, that is a good thing – they will clamor to write policies for me through age 85 or 90.

Common Sense

March 23rd, 2011
1:03 pm

before long, you will not be able to pack heat… In some states, if you get caught with a firearm on you, you get an automatic year in jail, its is just a matter of time before all states are doing the same…

Simple, just patent your DNA

March 23rd, 2011
1:28 pm

then if the state takes your DNA, you sue the state for millions for stealing your copyrighted work.


March 23rd, 2011
2:02 pm

Ragnar Danneskjöld

On the other hand with me I could not buy a policy with $1000 bills if they had my DNA.

mrs. w

March 23rd, 2011
2:42 pm

Sorry Bob but in this day and age I am all for the cheek swabbing. Too many crooks running loose out there. But I never understood why you could drive to Chili’s on a Sunday, get sloppy drunk and then drive home, but you could not run up to Kroger, grab a twelve pack and go home to get sloppy drunk. That has never made any sense to me.

poison pen

March 23rd, 2011
4:02 pm

Where do I spit?

november cant come soon enough

March 23rd, 2011
5:00 pm



March 23rd, 2011
6:32 pm

Bob is certainly correct here. Anyone comparing this to a fingerprint is sadly waayyyy behind the times. So much more info can be derived from DNA than a simple fingerprint, and if gathered by the powers-in-charge-at-the-moment, most certainly will be used for all it’s worth. The dummy above who said “then don’t get arrested” must be very sure there is never a case of mistaken identity in law enforcement. I do not speak with exact knowledge on the subject, but I believe through mitochondrial DNA they can even determine a match for a relative to an evidence sample to a high degree of accuracy. So, it’s not too far fetched in this case that YOU could be arrested on some trumped charge to determine if a relative was involved in the crime. A fair alternative it would seem to me would be to allow a DNA sample be taken IF and only IF there is DNA evidence available to test yours against.
Besides, with small-government-GA-republicans in charge who needs Big-government-democrats?


March 23rd, 2011
7:47 pm

Mr. Barr I hope you never have to walk 6 inches in my shoes. These are the same objections you made last year. DNA came into my life in Dec.2004 when my daughter was murdered in Knox County Tn. She fought for her life and her murder left his blood on the crime scene. It took 2 1/2 years to catch her killer


March 23rd, 2011
8:52 pm

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety- Ben Franklin. Same folks who said they didn’t mind if W illegally wire-tapped their conversations. I don’t agree with Mr. Barr most of the time, but he is spot on!

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March 24th, 2011
9:47 am

But, Bob, you and your readers know that the Republicans are all for a “strict constructionist” view of the Constitution …. ah, when, it suits their purpose. (And when it does not, just look the other way). And we also know that the alcohol bill will pass on the last day at midnight so the R’s won’t have to face the righteous religious right before they go back to the farm.


March 24th, 2011
9:49 am

Common Sense @ 1:03…so essentially, in a state where there is both gun control and this step away from liberty, you can have your 4th Amendment rights violated because you choose to exercise your 2nd Amendment rights.

Yet, many of my poor, scared, “I only hate government control when it applies to ME” fellow citizens are just fine with it.


March 24th, 2011
1:06 pm

Why not just be honest and go house-to-house collecting DNA at gunpoint? Not in the richer neighborhoods, of course.

R Pullman

March 28th, 2011
5:34 pm

Hypothetical: Someone gets arrested and released: a case of mistaken identity. Later it is discovered that the DNA matches another case. Would the DNA be admissible under those circumstances?