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Why Can Law Enforcement Obtain a DNA Sample From an Arrestee?

Last updated 5 years ago

DNA identification has become a powerful tool for identifying and building cases against alleged perpetrators of crimes. Recent California legislation has made DNA collection mandatory for anyone arrested for a felony, but, though this practice has been upheld in court, not everyone is convinced of its legality. Read on to learn more about this important issue.

DNA Collection

In California, anyone arrested for a felony is required to give a DNA sample as part of the booking process. This information is entered into CODIS, the national DNA database, and can be linked to unsolved crimes around the country. Anyone who is not later convicted of a crime can petition to have his DNA removed from the database, but this is a long and expensive process.


A recent court case brought by protestors who were arrested but not convicted served as a test of this DNA collection practice. The plaintiffs argued that it was an unlawful search and an invasion of privacy. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, saying that DNA collection is no more invasive than fingerprinting arrestees and serves much the same purpose. Their decision argued that the public benefit that comes from solving crimes and taking perpetrators off the streets is well worth the cost to individual privacy.


The three-judge appeals panel was split in its decision, with one judge dissenting. Judge William Fletcher disagreed with the assertion that collecting DNA is like collecting fingerprints, saying that the purpose of fingerprinting is to identify a suspect, while DNA collection serves as an investigatory tool and can provide much more information than simple identification. Fletcher argued that the practice amounts to collecting evidence without a warrant.

This case may be appealed further, but for now the law stands: any Californian arrested for a felony must give a DNA sample as part of the booking process. After booking, you will need the services of a bail bondsman to get you out of jail. In the Riverside and San Bernardino area, call The Bail Depot at (951) 712-6051 for help with bail.


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