Mandatory DNA Collection During Arrest is Unconstitutional, Court Says

A state appeals court decided unanimously Wednesday that California’s practice of taking DNA from people arrested for felonies -- though not necessarily convicted or even charged -- violates the state constitution.

The decision, handed down by an appeals panel here, is likely to be appealed to the California Supreme Court.

A three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal struck down a portion of a 2004 law passed by voters permitting the state to take and store DNA profiles from people arrested for felonies.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a more limited Maryland law under the federal Constitution.

But Wednesday’s decision was based on the California Constitution, which specifically gives residents privacy rights.

“The California DNA Act intrudes too quickly and too deeply into the privacy interests of arrestees,” Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline wrote for the panel.

“The fact that DNA is collected and analyzed immediately after arrest means that some of the arrestees subjected to collection will never be charged, much less convicted, of any crime,” Kline wrote.

A similar challenge to California’s law being heard in federal court was put on hold Wednesday as a result of the state court ruling.

A spokesman for state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, whose office has defended the DNA law, said lawyers were reviewing the ruling.

Harumi Mass, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California, which filed a friend of the court brief in the state case, praised the court’s decision for recognizing that “DNA is fundamentally differently from a fingerprint.”

“People who have never been charged with a crime should not have their DNA put in a government database,” Mass said.

by Maura Dolan, The Los Angeles Times
December 3rd, 2014
http://www.geneticsandsociety.org/article.php?id=8238