Thursday, February 16, 2017

San Diego Police Illegally Collected DNA Samples From Minors

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

On March 30th of last year, SDPD officers detained five black minors, walking through a park, for wearing blue clothes. The detention was escalated into a search when the officers handcuffed them and searched their person without finding any contraband; police did however find an unloaded revolver in a bag that one of them was carrying. The officers promised four of the minors that they could go free on the condition that they sign a consent form stating that they voluntarily agreed to provide a DNA sample (cheek swab) to Police that would be entered into SDPD’s local Database. Having no other option, the four minors submitted to the cheek swab and went on their way. The fifth minor, arrested for carrying an unloaded revolver, was also forced to submit to the DNA collection and was brought to the police department. The DA filed several charges against him, but they were all dropped after it was determined that the officers had conducted an illegal detention, search, and seizure. However, the DNA samples obtained during the illegal search and seizure were not destroyed.

Walking through a park wearing blue is not reasonable suspicion that someone or a group of people have or are in the process of committing a crime. Just because the color is associated with a gang does not mean that everyone that wears that color is a member of that gang. If the police didn't have reasonable suspicion, they certainly didn't have probable cause that the five minors had committed a crime. The fourth amendment dictates that police cannot conduct a search and seizure of evidence without probable cause; placing them in handcuffs and searching their person and possessions was illegal. The officers attempted to circumvent the fourth amendment by having the minors sign consent forms stating they agreed to a DNA collection, but it should be noted that consent cannot be given if cooperation is obtained using the threat of arrest or the promise of leniency in return for cooperation. At every step the San Diego officers violated the fourth amendment rights of the five minors. Furthermore, California Penal Code 296 only permits DNA collection from minors in cases where they have been convicted of a felony, plead guilty to a felony, or if they are required to register as a sex offender. As a result of the illegal detention, search and seizure, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the SDPD on behalf of the families of the five minors.

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