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This initiative expands the collection of DNA to include all convicted felons and some nonfelons, as well as individuals arrested for certain offenses.
Upon enactment of Proposition 69, DNA would be collected from
Additionally, starting in 2009 DNA would be collected from
The expanded list of qualifying offenses would be retroactive regardless of when the person was convicted (adults) or adjudicated (juveniles). As a result, DNA would be obtained from adults and juveniles already serving time in correctional facilities as well as those who are on parole or probation for these offenses.
Immediately following either arrest or conviction, state or local law enforcement personnel would be required to collect a sample of inner cheek cells of the mouth (known as a "buccal swab" sample). This sample would be in addition to the right thumbprint and full palm print impression of each hand required by current law. Also, state and local law enforcement would continue to have the authority to collect blood samples upon request by the California Department of Justice (DOJ).
This measure raises existing criminal penalties to fund the proposed expansion of DNA collection: an additional $1 would be levied for every $10 in penalties, with revenues shared by the state and local governments. The state would receive 70 percent of the revenue in the first two years, 50 percent in the third year, and 25 percent annually thereafter. Local government would receive the difference to support DNA sample collection, as well as other related activities such as analysis, tracking, and processing of crime scene samples.
DNA samples from those not convicted of a felony will be destroyed only if the arrestee makes a request through a formal petition to the court in the county where she/he was arrested. This court can deny the request; there is no appeal of the court's decision.
In 2003 state felony arrests totaled 507,081, according to the state attorney general. Statistics show that approximately one third of those arrested would have the charges dismissed or be found not guilty in a court of law.
The purpose of collecting DNA samples is to help solve crimes by comparing stored DNA of known offenders to DNA evidence from other crimes. The expansion of DNA collection to those arrested for specified crimes and, in 2009, to all adults arrested for any felony imposes a large workload on state DNA laboratories and mandates a careful program for destroying the samples of those not convicted of crimes. Moreover, Proposition 69 will apply retroactively, requiring DNA samples from persons in prison or on probation or parole with a felony record--more than 500,000 people.
Drawing a DNA sample is not the same as taking a fingerprint. The ACLU points out that "Fingerprints are two-dimensional representations of the physical attributes of our fingertips. They are useful only as a form of identification. DNA profiling may be used for identification purposes, but the DNA itself represents far more than a fingerprint. Indeed, it trivializes DNA data banking to call it a genetic fingerprint." They also point out that "the amount of personal and private data contained in a DNA specimen makes its seizure extraordinary in both its nature and scope. The DNA samples that are being held by state and local governments can provide insights into the most personal family relationships and the most intimate workings of the human body, including the likelihood of the occurrence of over 4,000 types of genetic conditions and diseases. DNA may reveal private information such as legitimacy at birth and there are many who will claim that there are genetic markers for aggression, substance addiction, criminal tendencies and sexual orientation."
States have moved in less than a decade from collecting DNA from convicted sex offenders, on the theory that they are likely to repeat their crimes and that they frequently leave biological evidence, to data banks of all violent offenders, to all persons convicted of a crime, including juvenile offenders, and now to this proposal to collect DNA samples from everyone arrested or charged with any felony offense. The potential invasion of privacy inherent in DNA collection is sufficient reason to oppose this initiative. Louisiana is currently the only state which collects DNA from all persons arrested for felonies.
Current law requires the Department of Justice to routinely purge DNA profiles of people who do not belong in the database. Proposition 69 relieves the DOJ from taking responsibility for clearing innocent people and shifts responsibility to the individual to navigate the government bureaucracy and secure the removal of his/her DNA from the database.
The LWVUS Position on Individual Liberties states belief in the individual liberties guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. The League is convinced that individual rights now protected by the Constitution should not be weakened or abridged.
The LWVC Juvenile Justice position: Efforts to . . . provide juvenile justice should: reinforce a young person's right to . . . justice and intervene in (his/her) life in the least intrusive . . . yet effective way.
The rebuttal to the supporters' argument was signed by Ronald E. Hampton, National Black Police Association, and Bob Barr.
Other organizations opposing Proposition 69 include the LWVC; Children's Defense Fund; California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; American Civil Liberties Union branches in California; California State Conference of the NAACP, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice; Lutheran Office of Public Policy-California; Service Employees International Union, California State Council; and Youth Law Center.
Marion Taylor, LWVC Legislation Director, email@example.com
Trudy Schafer, LWVC Program Director/Advocate, 801 12th Street, Suite 220, Sacramento 95814, 916-442-9210, firstname.lastname@example.org
No on Proposition 69, 415-621-1192, www.protectmyDNA.com. Ask the campaign to help you with educational forums, letters to the editor, op-ed articles, etc.
Note: Please adapt this letter to your own community and check your local paper's word limit for published letters.
For more information on this proposition, go to Smart Voter's coverage.