Police Face Criticism for Stopping Teen and Taking DNA

Matthew Renda | Courthouse News Service

SAN DIEGO (CN) – The ACLU says the San Diego Police Department’s policy of collecting the DNA of minors violates the Constitution, citing a recent case that simultaneously raises concerns about racial discrimination.

In its federal lawsuit filed Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union says the police department’s collection of a 16-year-old’s DNA violated his constitutional rights and that the policy of collecting kids’ DNA without a warrant is illegal.

“SDPD policy permits the police to obtain a child’s DNA without a warrant for investigative purposes – regardless of whether he or she is even under arrest – through his or her supposed consent,” the ACLU says in its complaint.

The department’s policy does an end-around state law, which says that DNA cannot be collected from a minor unless he or she is convicted of a felony. But because the state law applies only to storing DNA collections in a state-maintained database, San Diego skirts the law by keeping its own local database.

The ACLU says this practice is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which guards against illegal search and seizure.

“DNA analysis can reveal a vast array of highly private information, including familial relationships and other physical characteristics, as well as propensity to certain diseases, such as sickle-cell anemia, Huntington’s disease, and certain types of cancers,” the civil rights organization says in the complaint.


It further asserts there are several cases – including the 2012 arrest and subsequent near conviction of Lukis Anderson – where DNA evidence has been used improperly in high-stakes capital cases. In Anderson’s case, his DNA was found at a murder scene and he was subsequently charged, but it was later revealed his DNA was at the scene because the EMTs who responded had treated him for a medical emergency the day before.

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