California DNA Collection Law Still in PlaceMay 15, 2018 by Criminal Defense in
In April 2018, the California Supreme Court upheld the state’s controversial DNA collection law. Approved by 62 percent of California voters in 2004, Proposition 69 requires law enforcement officers to collect a DNA sample from anyone arrested on suspicion of committing a felony. Supporters of the law believe that the DNA database is essential to stopping crime because it helps investigators solve difficult cases.
On the other hand, keeping a database of the DNA of criminal suspects raises several privacy concerns. One of the main issues with Proposition 69 is that the collection of DNA samples occurs before suspects are convicted or even charged with an offense. In 2011, an appeals court in San Francisco ruled that Proposition 69 was unconstitutional because it enables law enforcement to single out and search suspects without any evidence of their guilt.
If you believe that you or a loved one has been unfairly targeted by the police, or if you’re concerned about your privacy after providing a DNA sample to the police, call a Fresno criminal attorney from Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer at (559) 443-7442 today to schedule a free case consultation.
Proposition 69 Will Likely Be Challenged Again
If the California Supreme Court was willing to overrule the appeals court decision about Proposition 69’s unconstitutionality, it may be because a DNA collection law from Maryland was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 2013. However, there are differences between Maryland and California’s DNA collection laws – differences that the California Supreme Court was willing to overlook.
Maryland’s DNA collection law mandates that DNA samples must be collected from anyone formally charged with a felony. California’s law is significantly broader, requiring the collection of samples before the suspect is even charged. Furthermore, the law applies to all felonies, not just serious felonies as in Maryland. Maryland automatically deletes DNA samples from its database when suspects aren’t convicted. In California, defendants must petition the court for their DNA sample to be removed from the database.
Mark Burza, a defendant in a California arson case, was eventually found guilty of his crimes, so the court did not have to rule on the issue of how the law applies to those who are eventually ruled innocent. Thus, it is likely that Proposition 69 will be challenged again in the future on this basis.
The California Supreme Court Ruled that Public Safety Outweighs Privacy Concerns
The central argument made by the California Supreme Court was that the privacy concerns raised by Proposition 69 are excused by how useful the law is in preventing crime. Law enforcement agencies now have a much broader DNA database to search from, which has enabled them to solve high-profile cases. The court was unwilling to take away such an important tool from the police to protect the privacy of criminal suspects.
Justice Leondra Kruger wrote that the court is “mindful of the heightened privacy interests in the sensitive information that can be extracted from a person’s DNA,” but upholding Proposition 69 is “justified by an interest in accurate identification.” California arrests over 200,000 people over suspected felonies each year. This is an enormous number of people whose right to privacy is essentially being ignored by the law.
Not everyone in the California Supreme Court supported this rationale. Dissenting Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar wrote that Proposition 69 is “a major intrusion into the privacy of all the people subject to its procedures.”
Do You Have Questions About the DNA Collection Law? Call Us Today
If you have been arrested, a Fresno criminal defense lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected as you pass through the criminal justice system. At Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer, we believe that decisive advocacy applied early in the process is the key to achieving positive outcomes. To learn more about how we can defend you, contact us today at (559) 443-7442 to schedule a free, confidential case evaluation.