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I prisoner holding onto his cell bars with a strand of DNA off to the side

William Thompson, a professor emeritus of criminology and law at the University of California, Irvine, lives in University Hills, an on-campus residential community that affords, as he says, “poorly paid academics” in an area with high housing costs the ability to live near work. He was outside one day a few years ago when he was approached by a neighbor, another member of the university faculty, who had a story for him. She’d been walking her dog without a leash — which is generally against the law in Orange County, where Irvine is located — when she got stopped and cited for the misdemeanor offense. She expected to go to court to pay a fine (a first offense is $100), but when she got there, she found out it wouldn’t be that simple. Instead, she was told that to make the infraction go away, she would have to give up a DNA sample.

This was not the first time Thompson had heard a story like this. Thompson has been a DNA wonk for decades and has written extensively about... see more