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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Right to Privacy? Not Anymore!

A person's right to privacy appears to be a thing of the past. The Charlotte Observer had an article highlighting the new DNA law that will go into effect February 1st, 2011. While, DNA evidence is an amazing tool that has exposed the wrongful convictions of hundreds throughout the country, there should be some right to privacy to your own DNA. North Carolina's new law will require police officers to obtain DNA swabs of anyone arrested, but not convicted of murder, cyber-stalking, assault, and  first and second degree burglary among other crimes.

If someone is falsely arrested for assault with the charges ultimately dismissed, the government will retain a person's DNA.  While courts have upheld DNA sampling of those convicted of certain crimes, state courts have held that the police need a warrant to obtain sampling for those who have been arrested, but not convicted of a crime. This law will most certainly be litigated.

This law affects the daily practice of any criminal attorney. However,  I'm sure many would agree with me that privacy in a person's day to day life seems also to be obsolete. I recently had an appointment at a doctors office. Prior to my appointment I received a five page questionnaire asking for information, including my social security number, my place of birth, work address, home address, occupation, spouse's occupation, the number of children, etc. I was annoyed when they requested the same information for my emergency contact person. I didn't fill out much of this information- on one piece of paper they would have my social security number, my DOB and place of birth.

When I arrived at the appointment the employee asked me to repeat the last 4 digits of my social security number- they had that in their computer system without me giving it to them. Then a request for my drivers license which was promptly inserted into a scanning machine with my insurance card. It appeared I was applying for a job at the state department, not visiting the doctor. So, it made me feel much better to wake up this morning to read the article in the Observer about the Charlotte psychologist whose son left 23 boxes of confidential records at a Charlotte recycling facility. Right to Privacy? Not anymore!

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posted by Carilyn Ibsen at


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