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California Law Requiring DNA Samples on Arrest Withstands Constitutional Challenges

Close up of nurses hands holding DNA sample swab and putting it into test tube

Under California law, defendants arrested for a felony must provide a DNA sample or face additional charges. The law recently withstood constitutional challenges in both state and federal court. Read on to learn more about the California DNA act, and contact a skilled Ventura criminal defense attorney with any additional questions or for immediate assistance after an arrest.

California’s DNA Act

The “DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act,” passed by California voters in 2004, requires law enforcement to collect DNA samples, as well as fingerprints, for everyone arrested for or convicted of a felony. Under the DNA Act, an arrestee who refuses to provide a DNA Sample is guilty of a criminal misdemeanor.

California Supreme Court upholds misdemeanor conviction for felony arrestee who refused to provide DNA sample

In People v. Buzza, the California Supreme Court addressed whether the DNA Act violates arrestees’ due process rights and rights against illegal search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution or Article I, section 13, of the California Constitution. The case dealt with a defendant arrested for felony arson who refused to provide a DNA sample and was then convicted of the DNA Act misdemeanor in addition to arson.

The Court held that the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated, nor were the defendant’s search and seizure rights under the California Constitution. The Court found DNA sampling to be like fingerprinting, already considered a reasonable and standard part of the criminal booking process. The Court restricted its holding to situations involving a person arrested on “probable cause to hold for a serious offense,” noting that the DNA Act may be unconstitutional in other situations–such as people charged with less serious crimes or who were not arrested based on probable cause.

Federal court rejects challenge to DNA Act as applied to broader category of arrestees

A federal trial court addressed a broader challenge to the DNA Act under the federal constitution as it applies to a broader category of arrestees, including those who were never charged with a crime. The court rejected the challenge, finding a previous U.S. Supreme Court case validated such DNA sample laws. The court found that police have an equal interest in collecting DNA samples even when the individual is arrested for less serious crimes, and that there is no problem with taking DNA samples at booking before a crime is charged, as the arrestee’s criminal history is relevant to the booking process for effective execution of the law.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Ventura County, get experienced and effective legal defense by contacting the Ventura criminal defense attorney Paul Tyler at 805-889-9000.

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