The ENCODE project, the Fourth Amendment, and Haskill v. Harris

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, heard oral arguments on whether DNA fingerprinting violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure on September 19.

Plaintiffs-Appellants in Haskell v. Harris argue that collection of DNA at arrest violates their privacy interests because DNA contains not only CODIS markers that help in forensic identification by distinguishing one individual from the other, but also contain additional genetic information which plays a role in cell behavior.  This revelation is supported by the ENCODE Project, a nine-year, world-wide, federally-sponsored project which has determined that the once thought “junk” DNA actually contains intimate information such as an individual’s susceptibility to disease and physical traits such as height.  For this reason, opponents of DNA fingerprinting argue that the forensic use of DNA implicates a cognizable privacy interest because, while a DNA profile contains identifying information, it also contains much more intimate information that is sensitive and private to the individual.

You can read more here. A video of the arguments is posted here.

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