The ability to identify individuals is an important priority for law enforcement. As time goes by, the amount of cold cases only increases, and the potential to associate a suspect with a crime can go a long way towards solving these cases. To assist law enforcement in this endeavor, in 2004, California passed Proposition 69, the “DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act.” Essentially, this Act required law enforcement to take a DNA sample of everyone who is arrested on suspicion of a felony. The DNA sample is then checked against a national database to see if the arrestee was involved in another criminal matter. Anytime criminal charges are a possibility the services of an attorney experienced in criminal defense should be secured, because defending against a charge in which DNA has implicated a person is almost impossible to do alone. Further, the California Supreme Court recently upheld Proposition 69 as not violating either the California or U.S. Constitutions. A discussion of this decision, and what it will mean going forward, will follow below.
People v. Buza
As alluded above, in 2004, Proposition 69 was passed and codified into law, which directed law enforcement to obtain a DNA sample of every person arrested under suspicion for committing a felony. This direction applies to everyone arrested for a felony, including those apprehended without a warrant or any finding by a judge that there was sufficient cause for the arrest. The State then stores these DNA samples, and allows these samples to be searched continuously by other law enforcement agencies around the country.
The primary issue people have with this law is that it is overreaching, in that it affects anyone arrested for suspicion of a felony, including those who are never charged with a crime, approximately 33% of all such arrestees. As a result, law enforcement agencies have this immensely private information at their disposal for an infinite amount of time. This, opponents assert, is a tremendous invasion of privacy.
The law does provide for a means by which one can have his/her sample destroyed and any registration of information contained within the sample purged from storage. However, it is a very complicated process to have it destroyed and purged, if not impossible.
Initially, it is important to note that the holding in Buza is specifically limited to the facts of that particular case, and the California Supreme Court did not speculate on the constitutionality of the law as applied under different circumstances. In fact, the court noted that an individual arrested in the future without, as in Buza, probable cause, could have a valid challenge to the adequacy of the law’s expungement procedures or other aspect of the law.
The law does allow a person to refuse to submit to a DNA test. However, doing so is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to $500 in fines and up to 1 year in prison, and creates a criminal record that brings its own set of issues.
Additionally, also as mentioned above, there is a destruction and purge process. An experienced criminal defense attorney can definitely assist in this procedure to ensure the technicalities of the rules do not block a legitimate request.
The best scenario is the California Legislature corrects the serious privacy issues with the law, which it started to do in 2015, after the California Supreme Court initially granted review of this case. But, whether those revisions will materialize in the wake of the Court’s decision remains to be seen.
Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested on suspicion of a felony, and have been required to provide a sample of your DNA to law enforcement, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Los Angeles law firm Manshoory Law Group, APC as soon as possible. The attorneys at Manshoory will use their expertise to hopefully force law enforcement to destroy the sample, and help you keep your private information private. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact us today for an initial consultation.