Court to reconsider law allowing DNA collection from criminal suspects

Measures requires samples whether individual ever charged or convicted

A federal appeals court in San Francisco agreed Wednesday to take another look at whether a California law requiring police to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested on suspicion of a felony is constitutional.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced an expanded

11-judge panel will review a decision in which a smaller panel of the court

upheld the law by a 2-1 vote in February.

The law is part of an initiative measure enacted by state voters

in 2004.

It requires collection of DNA samples from people arrested on

suspicion of a felony regardless of whether they are ever charged or

convicted of a crime.

Four citizens who had DNA taken with cheek swabs after they were

arrested, but who were never convicted of a crime, claim the law violates

their constitutional Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable


The four plaintiffs, from San Francisco, Berkeley and Sacramento,

are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. Two who were arrested

at demonstrations were never charged with a crime and charges against the

other two were dropped.

They say DNA collection is far more intrusive than fingerprinting

because the DNA can reveal a person's entire genetic blueprint and can be

misused to reveal private genetic and medical information.

"DNA contains a tremendous amount of personal information," ACLU

attorney Michael Risher said earlier this year.

The lawsuit challenges only the collection of DNA from suspects

and does not oppose taking DNA when a person has been convicted of a crime or

when prosecutors have obtained a search warrant authorizing the procedure.

State lawyers defending the law contend there are restrictions on

the use of the information and that the DNA is useful for identifying

arrestees, solving past crimes and exonerating innocent people.

In the majority decision in which the smaller panel upheld the law

in February, 9th Circuit Judge Milan Smith wrote, "After weighing these

factors, we conclude that the government's compelling interests far outweigh

arrestees' privacy concerns."

The appeals court's grant of review by an 11-judge panel, known as

an en banc panel, means the February decision no longer has any legal force.

ALCU spokesman Rebecca Farmer said the larger panel will hear

arguments on the case during the week of Feb. 17.

The circuit court, which hears appeals from federal courts in nine

western states, reserves en banc review for the most important cases and

grants such hearings in only about 20 cases per year.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

— Bay City News Service


Like this comment
Posted by Billy Budd
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2012 at 7:40 am

Awesome - ACLU and liberal courts trying to make it even more difficult for police and prosecutors to do their jobs - meanwhile crime is going up under the Obama economy. Surprised they haven't played the race card yet: "DNA be rayciss."

Like this comment
Posted by Sally
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jul 26, 2012 at 8:02 am

Personally, I'm torn. It smacks of Big Brother if you ask me. Before you know it, the DNA takers will be in our bedrooms 24/7/365. I'd be more willing to support our police if I knew more about what the language of police practices included. But the slope is clearly defined. First they come after your finger prints, then they come after your DNA sample, and finally they'll come after your children to take them to an indoctrination center where they'll feed them with tax-raising propaganda.

Billy Budd, thank you for your prediction. Yes, the race card. Indeed! And the way they'll ask. You're genius!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Pro-DNA
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2012 at 10:13 am

The amazing science of DNA prevents false punishment of innocents...,,probably spares as many as it would convict. DNA just
provides for accuracy and expediency.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jul 26, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I'm generally against giving the police anything more than a service revolver and a pair of handcuffs. On the DNA thing, I'd want clear and effective safeguards that prevent police detectives from taking the sample from my mouth and putting it somewhere that I have never been.

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"


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