News Story

Michigan Supreme Court Looks At Intrusive Police Fingerprint Collecting

A Mackinac Center amicus brief backs ACLU's complaint, along with Cato Institute and others

In a case now before the Michigan Supreme Court, the ACLU alleges that Grand Rapids police have conducted unreasonable and unconstitutional searches. The department has photographed and took fingerprints from individuals who were not carrying identification but were not charged with a crime.

The photos and fingerprints from 2011 and 2012 remain in a police database, according to the ACLU.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has written an amicus brief supporting the suit, also signed by the Washington-based Cato Institute, that contends the practice violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure,” said Patrick Wright, vice president of legal affairs at the Mackinac Center.

The ACLU alleges that if the practice is allowed, there is nothing to keep police agencies from stopping people without cause or any suspicion, mandate fingerprinting and creating a general fingerprinting database registry.

The Grand Rapids Police Department’s policy was changed in 2016 and now requires police officers to get the consent of the people it cannot identify before taking a photo and fingerprinting. The city of Grand Rapids stated it would not comment because of the pending litigation.

Wright noted in a press release, “Not every interaction with the police should result in a background check.”

The state Court of Appeals ruled that the attorneys for the two subjects in the lawsuit admitted their clients were validly detained. In its brief, the ACLU noted that the trial court ruled, “There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in one's fingerprints.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.