DNA Testing Of Suspected Felons Upheld In California
February 25, 2012

DNA Testing Of Suspected Felons Upheld In California

A ruling by a federal appeals court on Thursday will allow California law enforcement officers to continue collecting DNA samples from adults who were arrested for felonies.

A panel of judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 2004 California law requiring officials to collect the DNA samples does not violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches.

"DNA analysis is an extraordinarily effective tool for law enforcement to identify arrestees, solve past crimes, and exonerate innocent suspects," Judge Milan Smith wrote in the decision.

The DNA samples are analyzed for certain identifying markers, and the information is stored in a nationwide database.

A person who is tested and not convicted is able to have the sample destroyed and their DNA profile removed from the database.

In 2009, four California residents asked the court to issue an order barring the state from collecting DNA samples from people who were arrested but not convicted.  The district court rejected the request during that time, and the 9th Circuit upheld that decision.

However, Judge William Fletcher disagreed, saying fingerprints are taken to identify a person upon arrest, whereas DNA samples "are taken solely for an investigative purpose, without warrant or reasonable suspicion."

Michael Risher, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who represented the plaintiffs, said that the majority allows the government to treat arrestees as if they have been convicted of some sort of crime.

The law was part of a 2004 ballot measure that took effect in 2009, requiring police to swab an inner cheek of all felony arrestees for DNA.  The previous law required DNA samples from convicted felons.

Risher said in a statement that the state has no evidence that "taking (DNA) from people who are not convicted does anything to solve crime."


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