The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco reversed itself and ruled that the government can draw blood from federal parolees for a DNA databank used to investigate crimes, says the San Francisco Chronicle. Dissenters called the ruling an invitation to repression. The 6-5 ruling upholds a 2000 federal law and lifts a cloud over similar laws in every state. In California, where genetic samples from convicts have been used to prosecute more than 400 cases, an initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot would expand the databank to include DNA from everyone arrested for a felony.
A panel of the court had invalidated the law in a 2-1 ruling in October. Under yesterday’s rationale, “all Americans will be at risk, sooner rather than later, of having our DNA samples permanently placed on file in federal cyberspace,” where it could someday be used “to repress dissent, or, quite literally, to eliminate political opposition,” said dissenting Judge Stephen Reinhardt. Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, who wrote the lead opinion, said Reinhardt was invoking “dramatic Hollywood fantasies” to exaggerate the scope of the ruling. Five judges signed O’Scannlain’s opinion. The deciding vote came from Judge Ronald Gould, who said the law should be upheld on narrower grounds, as a deterrent against crimes by parolees. He suggested that ex-felons who have completed their parole terms might be able to get their DNA files erased.