A California law known as the DNA Act requires that law enforcement take a DNA sample from every adult arrested for or charged with any felony. Law enforcement uses a cheek swab to gather the DNA sample shortly after the person is arrested.
The United States Supreme Court reviewed a similar law recently with a case called Maryland vs King. The Supreme Court decided that the cheek swab DNA collection of a suspect after arrest for an offense deemed serious was reasonable. The Supreme Court also approved the analysis of the collected DNA.
Recently however, a California court broke the Supreme Court’s King holding. The Second Division of the California First District Court of Appeal was faced with a case revolving around a man arrested for setting fire to a San Francisco police car. A few hours after his arrest, a sheriff’s deputy asked the man to provide the mandatory DNA sample while he was sitting in county jail.
The man refused to comply, despite knowing that he would be charged with non-compliance. A jury convicted the man of his crimes, including the misdemeanor crime for non-compliance.
Instead of following the Supreme Court’s lead, the California appeals court reversed the man’s conviction for noncompliance in regards to that DNA sample. The California court looked at several distinctions between the DNA Act and the Maryland Law.
The Maryland Law had several differences, including only allowing a DNA sample if the officer has enough probable cause to believe that the accused is guilty, as well as expungement of the DNA, if the accused is not convicted.
This decision underscores the ability of state courts to make their own judgments about the constitution. Because of recent developments, California’s DNA Act faces an unclear future.