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Sacrificing Fourth Amendment on altar of popular opinion

The Assembly Judiciary Committee has voted to send to the floor Senate Bill 243, the Guilty-Until-Proven-Innocent bill. What this bill allows the government to do is take a sample of your DNA upon any arrest for an alleged felony offense.

That’s arrest, not conviction.

Disappointingly, not one Republican on the committee voted against this feel-good/slippery-slope bill. On the other hand, kudos to two Democrats who had the political stones to defend your Fourth Amendment rights: Assemblym en James Ohrenschall and Richard Carrillo.

In explaining his vote to apply a little Wite-Out (ask your mom) to the U.S. Constitution, Republican Assemblyman Wes Duncan of Las Vegas said, “The federal government and other states take DNA from people arrested prior to conviction,” so why shouldn’t we?

Ah, the ol’ “everybody else is doing it” defense … which worked so well for us as children, didn’t it? Indeed, if the federal government and other states decided to make it illegal to gamble, then Nevada should make it illegal to gamble, too?

Duncan also reportedly said, “The proposal would help capture criminals.”

Then again, so would warrantless searches. I mean, if that wouldn’t help capture criminals, I don’t know what would. So let’s do it, right?

For his part, Republican Assemblyman Ira Hansen of Sparks said, “I think the felony (arrest) standard is reasonable.” Really? For how long?

In other words, how long will it be before these people come back and demand a DNA sample from anyone arrested on a misdemeanor? And then for traffic tickets?

And if you don’t think that’s where we’re heading here, you’re quite naive.

But consider this, as well: What constitutes a felony these days?

The feel-gooders would have you believe the only people who will have their rights violated in this manner are rapists and murderers and drug dealers. But the sad truth is legislators for years have been turning more and more nonviolent misdemeanor infractions into felonies.

An example:

Two years ago, former Democrat Assemblyman Morse Arberry was charged with six felony counts relating to — not murder, not rape , not drug dealing — but failing to properly report campaign donations.

“Swab, please, Mr. Arberry!”

For the record, all six of the felony accusations against Mr. Arberry were ultimately reduced to a misdemeanor; however, had this DNA law been on the books, too bad. Arberry’s Fourth Amendment rights would have already vanished.

But what the heck? Everybody else is doing, right? And surely no one can argue against the reasonableness of forcing a DNA sample from someone who cooked his campaign books, right?

The only thing missing here are the ol’ “if one life can be saved” and the “if you have nothing to hide” arguments.

Then again, the session isn’t over yet and the full Assembly still has to vote on the bill.

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grass-roots advocacy organization. He can be reached at chuck@citizenoutreach.com.

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