When the San Diego police targeted black children for DNA collection without their parents' knowledge in 2016, it highlighted a critical loophole in California law. Now, State Assemblymember Gonzalez Fletcher has introduced legislation—A.B. 1584—that would ensure cops cannot stop-and-swab youth without judicial approval or parental consent. EFF strongly supports this move.
A.B. 1584 would require law enforcement to obtain a court order, a search warrant, or the written consent of both the minor and their parent or legal guardian before collecting DNA from the minor, except in a few narrow circumstances when DNA collection is already required under existing law.
Current California law attempts to place limitations on when law enforcement can collect DNA from children. Existing law states that law enforcement can collect DNA from minors only in extremely limited circumstances: after a youth has been convicted of or plead guilty to a felony, or if they are required to register as a sex offender or are in a court-mandated sex offender treatment program. But here's the loophole: this only applies to DNA that law enforcement seizes for inclusion in statewide or federal databases. That means local police departments have been able to maintain local databases not subject to these strict limitations.
In San Diego, as Voice of San Diego reported, this resulted in at least one case where police stopped a group of kids who were walking through a park after leaving a basketball game at a rec center. The boys were each asked to sign a form consenting to a cheek swab. The ACLU is currently suing SDPD over the incident.
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 meaningful parental notification and consent.
We urge the California Legislature to strengthen privacy protections for California kids and send A.B. 1584 to the governor's desk.