California DNA collection law struck down

California DNA collection law struck down

[JURIST] California’s First District Court of Appeals [official website] on Wednesday struck down [opinion, PDF] a California law which requires the collection of DNA from anyone arrested on suspicion of committing a felony. The case had been remanded from the California Supreme Court [official website] with orders to affirm the law due to the decision rendered by the US Supreme Court [official website] in Maryland v. King [JURIST report]. However, the First District Court again ruled in favor of the defendant, characterizing the collection of DNA as a search that does not pass the reasonableness standard. Under the DNA collection law, the sample must be taken as soon as administratively possible, meaning that the arrestee need not be formally charged or detained. The First District Court held that a collection at that point in time is unreasonable because an arrestee that has not had a judicial determination of probable cause has a higher privacy expectation, which the collection of DNA would violate. Furthermore, should the arrestee be released without being charged, the DNA sample would still be on record and would require substantial time and effort to expunge, again further infringing upon privacy rights. Finally, the court held that the law violates the California Constitution [text] on unreasonable searches and seizures, which is more exacting than the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment [text].

This decision contradicts an earlier ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website], which held that the law was in fact constitutional [JURIST report]. The issue of whether DNA testing is permissible is one that has been upheld [JURIST report] by most courts, and most notably by the Supreme Court in Maryland v. King. Some have embraced this move towards using DNA collection as a routine booking procedure as a better way of solving crimes [JURIST op-ed] and legitimizing the interest of crime victims.