U.S. Appeals Court to Hear Civil Rights Challenge to DNA Collection Law

December 9, 2013 16:00 pm · 19 comments

An 11-judge panel of a federal appeals court is set to hear arguments in San Francisco today on a challenge to a California law that requires police to collect DNA from all felony suspects.

The panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will reconsider a decision in which a smaller panel of the same court upheld the law by a 2-1 vote last year.

The law is part of an initiative enacted by California voters in 2004. It requires the 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 samples taken through cheek swabs following their arrests claim in a civil rights lawsuit that the measure violates their constitutional Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches.

The four plaintiffs, who are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, are from San Francisco, Berkeley and Sacramento. Two, who were arrested at demonstrations, were never charged with a crime, and charges against the other two were dropped.

ACLU attorney Michael Rishel said in advance of today’s hearing, “People who have never been charged with a crime shouldn’t have their DNA put in a government database.”

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.

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.

The panel will hear the arguments at the 9th Circuit courthouse at Seventh and Mission streets. It is expected to take the case under submission and issue a ruling at a later date.

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1 sarcasm December 9, 2013 at 4:10 PM

Ho, Ho, Ho,

Yes, more regulations. Need to criminalize people who have never commited a crime and protect the poor felons and protect them from being singled out for being murderers, thieves, molesters, rapists, burglars, embezzlers, wife beaters, drug distributors, drug users, tweekers, scum and any other sort of criminal.

Damn I hate the left.

2 TinFoiler December 9, 2013 at 4:22 PM

Isn’t DNA already collected from newborns? More laws & Makes it easier for them to clone YOU

3 anon December 9, 2013 at 4:24 PM

Should be if your arrested for anything you give up your DNA and it goes in the data base. I don’t care if you’re guilty or not.

4 @ RustedFoiler December 9, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Why in the world would anyone want more of you?

5 Dorothy December 9, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Don’t see the difference between a cheek swab and fingerprints. Both are unique identifiers. Somebody afraid of being caught in something? If their fingerprints were taken when arrested why just complain about a cheek swab?

6 Melanie December 9, 2013 at 4:31 PM

As far as I’m concerned, they can keep a database with everyone’s DNA. Most of us who don’t commit crimes wouldn’t mind being in there.

7 Mr John December 9, 2013 at 4:33 PM

All people should want their DNA tracked in case something happens to you. I want them to be able to identify my blood stains.

8 anonanonagain December 9, 2013 at 4:34 PM

@ Sarcasm, don’t stereotype the left and I won’t stereotype the right. We are not all flower coddling, Birkenstock wearing nutters. I think that if you are arrested under even the suspicion of a crime, it is mandatory that you have your DNA taken. At that point they do not know if you are guilty or innocent and as the lawyer in defense of this said, it can exonerate someone of a crime or solve past crimes. Anyone who is prepared to do something that may cause them to be arrested should sacrifice this right…….

9 Mike December 9, 2013 at 4:42 PM

Ok, nut jobs. I know you’re all going to rant about cloning and a bunch of sci-fi inspired pipe dreams, but let’s be civil and realistic about this.

First of all, we already live in (and seem to be okay with) a society that collects finger prints for identification purposes, even when it’s not for having been arrested. Want to work with kids as a teacher, day care provider, tutor…? Fingerprints! Want to work in certain fields where they fear employees stealing? Fingerprints!

Why is DNA different from fingerprints in the sense that it’s unique to each individual and is even more helpful for identifying people in crimes, thefts, assaults, etc.? Why is it an invasion of privacy or breaking the 4th amendment when fingerprinting is not? I put this forth as a serious question. If there’s something I’m not grasping, please enlighten me.

Also, I’m not a right-winger who wants everyone who ever gets arrested to be at the mercy of their captors or arresting officers… I’m a liberal democrat who believes in civil rights and believes that civil protests are free speech and that protestors are far too often abused by police in order to make them disperse. (When they’re not civil, the police often have no choice but to respond with violence and I understand that, but… still… only one side is allowed to have weapons.) But being a logical, rational person, I believe we have to have some sort of practical way to identify persons of interest in crimes where DNA evidence is admissible in court. We have all of this amazing technology and to stand in the way of progress because we’re afraid of new things is ignorant and immature. To claim this is a violation of civil rights… it’s a valid question, but in the end it may not be a valid argument.

Personally, I see a lot more wrong with the government and local police divisions than with the concept of using DNA evidence. It’s not the information that’s dangerous; it’s the people to whom we give the power to wield it like a weapon.

10 MikeT December 9, 2013 at 4:49 PM

@ Mike # 4, I was trying to figure out how to put my thoughts on paper for this question, but you nailed it for me! Your post made more sence than anything I would have written.

11 Jorge December 9, 2013 at 5:19 PM

You are an idiot!

12 Anononymous December 9, 2013 at 5:36 PM

Tell me Mike.

When were those peaceful protestors abused by the nasty cops? Selma?


13 Ted K. December 9, 2013 at 5:58 PM

I think the fundamental question is what is “reasonable” and is the requirement for a DNA sample based on “probable cause” on the particular case?

If there is probable cause based on substantial or circumstantial evidence, then I believe a DNA sample should be submitted. However, if the results of that sample excludes the individual from the particular case (thus no association is established), then the results should be destroyed and never entered into the national database. However with any system is involved, there is room for abuse.

If the DNA sample results in association with the particular case and results in a felony charge (or even a misdemeanor criminal charge in my opinion), then the individual DNA sample is subject to entry in the national database.

Melanie @6… be very wary of how and with whom your data is shared. It can be abused to target you, your ancestry (as in health risk), and your family with regards to susceptability to certain diseases. That is a GIANT RED FLAG under ObamaCare because your data will be unsecure to those who can use it against you – scam artists, insurance companies, marketing firms, and yes, your government.

14 meh December 9, 2013 at 7:41 PM

Suspicion is too broad of a word. It should be to those caught in- fraganti.

15 anonmtz December 9, 2013 at 8:42 PM

Mike 9……

Well said.

Please do come back and offer your thoughts whenever you can.

16 Anonymous December 10, 2013 at 7:39 AM

Dear Mike 9
Please do not come back with your “Occupy everything” rhetoric.This is thinly disguised gibberish justifying vandals calling their actions “civil disobedience” Tiresome listening to airheaded liberals justify every goofy thing that pops up. You probably believe in global warming, even though the earth hasn’t gotten any warmer in 15 years.

17 I agree with Melanie December 10, 2013 at 8:03 AM

I would gladly provide my fingerprints and DNA if everyone was required to do so. Just think how many burglars, vandals, rapists and murderers we would catch the first time they committed a crime. Fewer people would have to suffer at the hands of criminals. Police could work quickly and efficiently and we would all see a significant drop in the crime rate.

I’m already in a DNA database because I signed up for a bone marrow donor registry. My daughter had to provide finger prints as part of a background check at her place of employment – an athletic club where she does daycare and teaches the kids’ classes.

I have no problem with a national DNA and fingerprint database that law enforcement agencies can access to solve crimes. We just have to come up with really severe penalties if anyone with access to the database abuses the privilege.

18 Oh Mike December 10, 2013 at 8:08 AM

We know you.
1Volvo or better yet an electric car
2 Watch MSNBC
3.Cheney lied/ Obama clarifies
4. Fox news= faux news
5.Occupy Oakland made valid points.
6.Gore is smart.
7.Buys organic
8 must heal the planet
9 Wealthy should pay fair share.
10 Must support BART workers.
11. Thinks Pelosi is a fox

19 Connie Dobbs December 10, 2013 at 9:04 AM

“OK, nut jobs…”
… and that’s where I quit reading.

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