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California DNA law is broader than program upheld by Supreme Court

Publication Date: 
June 03, 2013
Source: 
Los Angeles Times
Author: 
Maura Dolan

Professor Hank Greely weighs in on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the right of authorities to take DNA from people when they are arrested and discusses whether it will have an impact on California’s similar DNA program. 

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Supreme Court's decision upholding the right of authorities to take DNA from people when they are arrested only partially assures that California's DNA collection program will survive court challenges, experts said Monday.

The high court upheld a program in Maryland that takes DNA from those arrested only for violent felonies and burglary. Maryland processes the genetic evidence only after an arraignment, and if the person is acquitted, the DNA profile is automatically expunged.

California's DNA arrest procedures, in effect since 2009, are different. Anyone arrested for a felony in California must submit to a mouth swab, and the genetic evidence can be processed and put into a state data bank at any time.

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Standford law professor Hank Greely, who directs Stanford's Center for Law and the Biosciences, said it wasn't clear exactly what impact Monday's ruling would have on the California program.

“The idea that you can mandatorily  take DNA samples from someone who has been arrested but not yet convicted and use those samples to tie them to unsolved crimes — that was the ACLU’s  major concern and that is lost," he said.