A suit alleges that California is retaining hundreds of thousands of innocent people’s DNA analyses in a system known as CODIS.
The state of California is putting innocent people’s DNA in a national database for law enforcement. Specifically, two groups allege California collects DNA from people arrested but never convicted of crimes.
In addition, the state uploads DNA test results into a national database known as the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), Reason states. Moreover, most data remains in CODIS indefinitely.
“One-third of people arrested for felonies in California are never convicted,” Marcy Darnovsky claims. In detail, Darnosky is the executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society. Consequently, California keeps innocent people’s DNA on file forever.
California Keeps Innocent People’s DNA On File Forever
Meanwhile, the Center for Genetics and the Equal Justice Society are suing to stop California from keeping innocent people’s DNA.
“The government has no legitimate interest in retaining DNA samples and profiles from people who have no felony convictions, and it’s unconstitutional for the state to hold on to such sensitive material without any finding of guilt,” Darnovsky charges.
In fact, California is seizing, analyzing, and retaining DNA from all people suspected of felonies. In particular, police are uploading the DNA analyses of all suspects into CODIS.
Innocent people’s DNA is being kept on file because police upload wrongly arrested suspects’ DNA. For instance, DNA from any person that police question or detain in a case could be in CODIS. Notably, the DNA will still be on file if police release the person without charges.
Furthermore, the state retains all suspects’ DNA unless the suspect asks for the state to expunge it from CODIS. Few people go through this process because it is costly and requires a lot of paperwork.
California Retains Hundreds Of Thousands Of Innocent People’s DNA
California is retaining hundreds of thousands of innocent people’s DNA analyses in CODIS, the suit alleges. In particular, the lawsuit estimates that California holds over 750,000 people’s DNA.
However, the state expunged only 1,282 DNA records. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people may not realize their DNA is on file in CODIS.
Significantly, refusing to provide a DNA sample to police after arrest is a crime punishable by up to a year in jail in California. For this reason, many innocent people provide samples to avoid jail time.
Additionally, California law gives police officers the power to force suspects to provide samples. So, law enforcement can tie a person down and take a sample of their DNA.
Innocent People’s DNA Retained By State In Violation Of Constitution
Astonishingly, the lawsuit asserts that California is violating its own constitution by retaining innocent people’s DNA.
To explain further, attorneys allege that seizing and retaining DNA is an “unreasonable search and seizure.” Particularly, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Article One of the California State Constitution also bans unreasonable searches and seizures.
To elaborate, any warrantless search or seizure is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, California is violating both the U.S. Constitution and its own Constitution.
Because of this, all California police need to take a DNA test without a warrant is to accuse somebody of a felony. Furthermore, CODIS maintains possession of data from most warrantless DNA tests indefinitely.
Innocent People’s DNA Is Still Being Taken From Test Services
On a positive note, California is not retaining data from DNA testing services such as 23 and Me, or from medical facilities. Instead, police need warrants to get data from services, hospitals, or doctor’s offices.
Nonetheless, police could probably get a warrant for a person because his DNA is on file in CODIS. Notably, the CODIS information includes a person’s name, fingerprints, and background information. As a consequence, police can track a person down through DNA in either CODIS or the National DNA Index System (NDIS).
In fact, the lawsuit states that the NDIS retains the DNA of over 13.567 million people. This entire database is available to law enforcement agencies because it is on file in CODIS as well. Those numbers include innocent people’s DNA since the NDIS contains DNA from detainees, veterans, and members of the U.S. military.
Ultimately, your DNA could be on file in the NDIS and may be accessible through CODIS even if you are innocent.
Specifically, the aforementioned lawsuit is entitled Center for Genetics and Society, Equal Justice Society and Pete Shanks vs. State of California. The plaintiffs brought the suit to the Superior Court of California for the County of San Francisco as CPF-18-516440.
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