First District of California Rules DNA Sample Law Unconstitutional

By: Wallin & Klarich

In a recent California state court ruling, the First District Court of Appeal determined a the law that permitted police to gather a DNA sample from any individual arrested on suspicion of a felony was unconstitutional. On the other side of the country however, in Maryland, a very similar law was upheld by the high court, giving the police the right to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested in connection with a serious crime.

DNA samples unconstitutionalOn the surface, the two laws appear to be indistinguishable but upon further review, there are minor discrepancies that may clarify the reasoning behind each court’s decision.

California Law vs. Maryland Law

Under a former First District California ruling, those arrested for any felony were required to immediately submit to DNA analysis. The current Maryland law does not require a DNA sample to be processed until after the arrestee is officially charged with the particular crime. Furthermore, while the Maryland law mandates the automatic expungement of the DNA if the subject is found not guilty, the California law placed the burden on the arrested individual to pursue an expungement, which is not always guaranteed.

The First District Court of Appeal ruled that the panel’s decision was ultimately based on the California Constitution. The court determined that taking a DNA sample upon arrest violated a citizen’s “reasonable expectation of privacy” under the state constitution.1

Justice Anthony Kline stated: “Analysis of DNA collected from arrestees does not serve the asserted governmental purpose – identification – and the apparent actual purpose for taking DNA samples at this early stage – investigation – cannot be squared with constitutional principles protecting against suspicionless searches.”2

What Wallin & Klarich Thinks

The Court of Appeal was right in this decision. Forcing someone to submit to a DNA sample after they are placed under arrest is a breach of privacy and unconstitutional. It is a clear violation of a person’s right to privacy.

What Do You Think About the Court’s Ruling?

What do you think about this court ruling? Should DNA samples be collected when someone is arrested for a serious crime? Does forcing individuals to submit a DNA sample violate their rights? Please share your opinion on this matter in the comments section below.

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2. [Daily Journal, “DNA Sample Law Unconstitutional” Green, Emily – 12/4/14]

Posted In: Felony Offenses