California's kids now have common-sense protections against unwarranted DNA collection. Gov. Jerry Brown this week signed A.B. 1584, a new law requiring law enforcement to get either judicial approval or permission from both the minor and a parent, legal guardian, or attorney before collecting a DNA sample from the minor.
EFF has supported the bill, introduced earlier this year by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, from the beginning. DNA can reveal an extraordinary amount of private information about a person, from familial relationships to medical history to predisposition for disease. Children should not be exposed to this kind of privacy invasion without strict guidelines and the advice and consent of a parent, legal guardian, or attorney. Kids need to have an adult present who represents their interests and can help them understand both their rights and the lifelong implications of handing one’s sensitive genetic material over to law enforcement.
This law will make sure that happens.
Thanks to A.B. 1584, police will now have to obtain a court order, search warrant, or the consent of both the minor and their parent, legal guardian, or attorney before collecting DNA. They will also have to automatically expunge any voluntary sample collected from a minor within two years, if the sample doesn't implicate that minor as a suspect for a criminal offense. Law enforcement must also give kids a form requesting to have their DNA sample expunged and make reasonable efforts to comply promptly with such requests.
This law was necessary to close a loophole in an existing law that attempted to limit the circumstances under which law enforcement could collect DNA from kids. Unlike A.B. 1584, however, that law only applied to DNA seized for inclusion in statewide or federal DNA databases. As Kelly Davis of the Voice of San Diego reported, police in San Diego realized they could get around the existing protections by storing DNA locally, and then instituted a policy of collecting samples from kids for "investigative purposes" by obtaining minors' "consent" but without any parental notice or approval. In at least one case, which has given rise to an ACLU lawsuit, police stopped a group of kids who were walking through a park after leaving a basketball game at a rec center and asked each to sign a form “consenting” to a cheek swab.
We applaud Gov. Brown's decision to protect the rights of California's youth by signing A.B. 1584 into law.