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Class action suit challenges California DNA collection law

Categories Biometrics News  |  Law Enforcement

A class action lawsuit in federal court has questioned the legality of California’s DNA collection law. So far, it is the only civil suit of its kind in the country but more lawsuits are expected to be filed.   The law’s mandate allows persons who are arrested, but not convicted of any crime, to be swabbed.

The case of Lily Haskell and three other plaintiffs started when the four were arrested after joining a peace rally in San Francisco. Though they were not convicted of any crime, and consequently released, a cheek swab containing their DNA material was obtained by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD). Haskell and the three others now have their DNA stored in a national databank.  They are arguing before the court that a DNA sample wrongfully or forcefully taken from an individual is a violation of constitutional rights.

The California law was a result of the passing of Proposition 69 in 2004. It was not put into effect until January 2009. Proposition 69 states that anyone who has been arrested for a felony must submit a DNA sample which is then stored in a national criminal database. This database is open to law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, Sheriff’s Departments or local police. The collection of DNA samples was initially intended for perpetrators of serious crimes such as murder, robbery, rape and drug related offences  However, with the new mandate, person charged with lesser offences can be subjected to DNA collection.

Those who are protesting the law argue that it is a clear violation of their constitutional guarantees of privacy, and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.

Should California’s DNA collection law be struck down?

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