The American Civil Liberties Union sued in federal court on October 7, 2009 seeking to stop California’s policy of mandating that DNA is collected from anyone arrested for a felony, whether or not they are ever charged or convicted.
The policy is a result of Proposition 69, which was enacted by voters in 2004 and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.
Under this new law, people who are arrested for a felony must provide DNA samples that will be stored in a criminal database accessible to local, state, national, and international law enforcement agencies.
Instead of being limited to serious, violent offenses, the new requirement even applies to victims of domestic violence who are arrested after defending themselves, people wrongfully arrested due to police misconduct, someone who has written a bad check, and people arrested during political demonstrations.
The law violates constitutional guarantees of privacy and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and because of the harmful impact on communities of color.
The suit, Haskell v. Brown was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco. Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP is litigating the case with ACLU-NC on a pro bono basis.
On Oct. 30, 2009, the ACLU-NC filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, asking the court to stop the state from collecting, analyzing, and databanking DNA samples from Californians who have been arrested but not convicted of a crime.
In a disappointing ruling on Dec. 23, 2009, the court denied ACLU’s request for a preliminary injunction. The ACLU-NC has appealed that ruling. On Jan. 29, 2010, the court certified the case as a class action, and denied the government’s motion to dismiss the case. The lawsuit and advocacy for genetic justice continues.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard the case on July 13, 2010, and we are awaiting its decision.