-- James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791
"There is not in the whole science of politics a more solid or a more important maxim than this -- that of all governments, those are the best, which, by the natural effect of their constitutions, are frequently renewed or drawn back to their first principles."
-- James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791
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Monday, June 3, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) released the following statement on today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Maryland v. King:
Today’s unfortunate U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Maryland v. King, by a vote of 5-4, expands government power, invades our liberty, and undermines our constitutional rights. The Court held that the police can forcibly take DNA samples from people who have been arrested—but have not been tried or convicted—of a serious offense. So now the government can capture, without a search warrant, the most personal information about an individual, and use it to search vast databases for unrelated offenses.
All 50 States already collect DNA from convicted felons. So this intrusion of liberty will matter only for those not convicted: the innocent and wrongly accused or those for whom there is insufficient evidence to convict.
As Justice Scalia rightly noted in dissent, “As an entirely predictable consequence of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.”
All of us should be alarmed by this significant step towards government as Big Brother. The excessive concentration of power in government is always inimical to liberty, and a national database of our DNA cannot be reconciled with the Fourth Amendment.
Accumulating DNA from arrestees—without warrant or probable cause to seize the DNA—is not designed to solve the crime for which the person has (rightly or wrongly) been arrested. Rather, it’s to test the DNA against a national database to potentially implicate them in other unsolved crimes. But the Constitution requires particularized suspicion of a specific crime; indeed, the Fourth Amendment was adopted to prohibit the British practice of “general warrants” targeting individuals absent specific evidence of wrongdoing.
Justice Scalia’s scathing dissent is right: If we really want a DNA database to solve more crimes, then why not require DNA samples to fly on airplanes, get driver's licenses, or attend public schools?
If the government has good cause for needing the DNA sample—such as trying to match DNA at a crime scene to a particular person where there is other corroborating evidence—then the government can ask a judge for a search warrant. That’s what our Framers intended—judicial checks on extensive government power to invade our personal lives.
Law enforcement is a paramount function of government. But we cannot allow that government function to run roughshod over the Bill of Rights. And, as recent events involving the IRS have demonstrated, unchecked government power—and intrusive personal databases maintained on the citizenry—poses real risks to our liberty.
"A Constitution is not the act of a Government, but of a people constituting a government, and a government without a constitution is a power without right."
--Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791
"[I]f the policy of the government, upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties, in personal actions, the people will have ceased, to be their own rulers, having, to that extent, practically resigned their government, into the hands of that eminent tribunal.’ May that not be the case in our nation.”
-- Abraham Lincoln
"But while property is considered as the basis of the freedom of the American yeomanry, there are other auxiliary supports; among which is the information of the people. In no country, is education so general -- in no country, have the body of the people such a knowledge of the rights of men and the principles of government. This knowledge, joined with a keen sense of liberty and a watchful jealousy, will guard our constitutions and awaken the people to an instantaneous resistance of encroachments."
--Noah Webster, On Education of Youth in America, 1790
"The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a co-ordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone."
--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Ritchie, 1820
"There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution."
-- John Adams, Letter to Jonathan Jackson (2 October 1780), "The Works of John Adams", vol 9, p.511
"A constitution founded on these principles introduces knowledge among the people, and inspires them with a conscious dignity becoming freemen; a general emulation takes place, which causes good humor, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprising. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious, and frugal."
-- John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776