DNA Samples Required for All Sex Offenders in CA

As technology improves and law enforcers have access to more powerful and accurate resources, the way crimes are solved and prosecuted is changing. The growing popularity and availability of DNA information has been perhaps the most fascinating technological advance in recent years.

Reports from SFGate.com tell of a recent ruling in California that will greatly expand the DNA databases currently available to law enforcers in the state.

In 2004, 62% of Golden State voters expressed support for Proposition 69, which mandated that all sex offenders who were convicted before 2004 submit DNA samples to law enforcement officials. To put this vote in context, here’s the background of such laws in California.

  • 1983: All inmates in prison or hospitals for specific felony sex crimes, including rape and child molestation, are required to submit saliva samples for state DNA databases.
  • 1998: Law is broadened to include those incarcerated for more felony sex crimes or violent crime, as well as parolees and those currently on probation for such crimes.
  • 2004: Law is expanded to include those convicted of any felony or misdemeanor sex crime. Proposition 69 requires all those arrested for felony crimes to submit DNA samples and includes retroactivity clauses.

As of next year, all those arrested for any felony crime will likely have to submit DNA samples, as well.

Evidently, not everyone supported these provisions. Sylver Good, for one, took the matter to court. Good, who was apparently convicted in 1996 for misdemeanor indecent exposure and sentenced to probation, refused to give a DNA sample when asked.

Sources indicate that he took the matter to the court and, although the wording of the retroactivity clause in Proposition 69 was somewhat unclear, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco voted in favor of voters. This means that sex offenders will have to submit DNA samples in California no matter when their crime occurred.

Understandably, the idea of having your DNA on record for something as small as being arrested for a crime makes some people nervous. With talk of the FBI’s new biometric database of human information and the increased usage of DNA evidence in law enforcement, these law enforcement measures can feel unnecessarily invasive.

But, according to sources, lawmakers are simply trying to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent.

That argument holds more water when considered in light of a story recently reported on Star-Tribune.com. Apparently, the 1993 rape of a 14-year-old girl was solved recently thanks to DNA evidence. The DNA found on the girl’s body 15 years ago reportedly matched that of a career criminal who was required to submit a DNA sample for an unrelated crime.

And recent headlines have included all too many stories about people wrongfully convicted of crimes who spent decades in jail only to be exonerated years later when DNA evidence became available.

The issues of privacy invasion and excessive governmental involvement will likely continue to surface as DNA information becomes more common in criminal investigations.