When it comes to collecting DNA from criminal offenders, California law is especially protective of juveniles.
While 2004’s Proposition 69 broadened police authority to collect DNA without a warrant, it put limits on when DNA can be collected from juveniles. Only if a youth has been found guilty of a felony or required to register as a sex offender can law enforcement obtain a DNA sample.
But the San Diego Police Department has found a way around state law. The department maintains its own database — one that’s not linked to state or federal DNA databases. According to department policy, as long as a DNA profile remains in the local database, officers can collect DNA from anyone for “investigative purposes.” The policy requires only that officers get a signed consent from the minor. It doesn’t require them to notify the minor’s parent or guardian until after the sample’s been taken.
A lawsuit filed Tuesday by the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties challenges that policy, and argues that a juvenile is incapable of providing informed consent, especially if he or she is being coerced by law enforcement. The lawsuit also raises questions about which juveniles are being targeted by the policy and why.
It’s not the first time the ACLU has sued San Diego police over improper DNA collection. In 2013, the city agreed to pay a $35,000 settlement and destroy DNA samples police had collected without cause from the family of a parolee.
Experts I spoke to about the department’s policy were unaware of any other law enforcement agencies in California that collect DNA from juveniles in the field. They acknowledged a local database is a way to get around state rules, but said it also undermines the intent of the law’s strict limits. Even juveniles who admit their guilt aren’t necessarily required to provide a DNA sample, said Kevin Lapp, a Loyola Law School professor.
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Molto kudos to Ms. Davis for shining light on SDPD! Watch for this scene to be repeated in other, perhaps even less friendly, cities as other police agencies become aware of the "gray area" noted here.
The SDPD has far too many liars who are backed by incompetents, who may also be liars too. The only remedy that may be lasting is a spate of litigation; expensive litigation.
@Matty Azure They, the police, get the DNA either way; by deception or by crime scene cleanup.