Federal court upholds California’s DNA sampling law
March 21, 2014
A federal appeals court has unanimously upheld a California law that allows officials to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony. [Mercury News]
The 5-year-old law permits DNA sampling without review by a judge and even if criminal charges are dropped. The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the law in court on behalf of plaintiffs forced to submit to DNA testing.
One plaintiff, Oakland resident Elizabeth Haskell, had to submit to a DNA test after officers arrested her during a San Francisco rally against the Iraq War. After her arrest, prosecutors never charged her.
But, the 11-judge 9th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals rejected the ACLU’s argument that the California law threatens privacy right. The court of appeals upheld the DNA sampling law, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that backed a similar law in Maryland.
The Maryland law, however, only allows officials to collect samples from those charged with a serious felony and only after a judge finds probable cause that they have committed a crime.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris said the differences between the California and Maryland laws are not constitutionally significant.
The Obama Administration sided with Harris in the case, citing the national importance of DNA collection laws, now on the books in 28 states.
The 9th circuit court suggested that civil liberties advocates return to lower courts and raise narrower claims. The ACLU expressed interest in doing so.