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Is taking DNA a reasonable search? US judges uphold California law.

A 2004 California law permits DNA samples taken from adults arrested for felonies to be stored in a national database. Challengers said that violates Fourth Amendment privacy protections.

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A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled Thursday that a California law requiring the taking of a DNA sample from every adult arrested for a felony does not violate the Constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable searches.

The panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to uphold the law, which permits the collected samples to be stored in a nationwide database for potential use in future investigations.

Challengers had argued in a class-action lawsuit that the DNA law – passed in 2004 as Proposition 69 – would facilitate the use of their DNA samples in future investigations without the government first obtaining a warrant or reasonable suspicion. They said such actions violate Fourth Amendment privacy protections.

“We conclude that the government’s compelling interests far outweigh arrestees’ privacy concerns,” wrote Judge Milan Smith in a 33-page decision joined by Senior District Judge James Dale Todd.

In a dissent, Judge William Fletcher said the DNA law ignores an important distinction that he said applies to the collection of fingerprints.


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