Update: the time for this hearing has changed. It now begins at 1:30pm.
San Francisco – At 1:30 pm on Wednesday, May 1, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Law Office of Michael T. Risher will argue against the government’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging law enforcement retention of DNA profiles of hundreds of thousands of innocent Californians.
EFF and Risher represent two social justice organizations—the Center for Genetics and Society and the Equal Justice Society—and an individual plaintiff, Pete Shanks. They filed the suit against the state of California to challenge its retention of genetic profiles from people arrested but never convicted of any crime. California has long collected DNA from people convicted of serious felony offenses, but ten years ago the state mandated DNA collection for every single felony arrestee.
Once these samples are collected, the DNA is analyzed and uploaded to the nationwide Combined DNA Index System, or “CODIS,” which is shared with law enforcement across the U.S. The DNA profiles remain in the state and national database indefinitely – even those from people who were later determined to be innocent. Innocent people whose DNA profiles remain in the databases have been mistakenly arrested, charged, or even imprisoned based on crime-lab and other errors that found a supposed CODIS match between their profile and DNA found at a crime scene.
More than a third of all those arrested in California in 2017 on suspicion of felony offenses were released and never charged, had their charges dismissed, or were acquitted. Retaining their profiles amounts to an invasion of privacy that violates the state’s constitution.
The State of California has moved to dismiss this case against its retention policies. At Wednesday’s hearing, Michael T. Risher will argue that retention of DNA from innocent people violates the California Constitution’s privacy protections, which are meant to block overbroad collection and unlawful searches of personal data. The California right to privacy requires the government to expunge DNA samples and profiles taken from arrestees who were never charged or whose charges have been dismissed.
Hearing in Center for Genetics and Society v. Becerra
EFF co-counsel Michael T. Risher
Wednesday, May 1
San Francisco Superior Court
Civic Center Courthouse, Dept. 302
400 McAllister St
San Francisco, CA 94102
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