Orange County, Ca., which already has one of the nation’s most aggressive programs for taking DNA samples from convicts, has begun offering a deal to some people who have only been arrested: give a DNA sample and have your charges dropped, the Los Angeles Times reports. The district attorney’s office, which runs its own database, has started expanding its program by handling some cases “informally,” District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said this week. In those cases, if a person who has been arrested agrees to give a DNA sample, “we would not even file” charges.
The DNA sample could act as a deterrent for potential criminals and be a useful investigative tool for law enforcement, Rackauckas said. The deal to drop charges in exchange for DNA samples, which appears to be unique in the country, has drawn objections both from civil libertarians and from some in law enforcement. “All law enforcement will be demoralized, especially on narcotics cases,” said Wayne Quint, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs. Civil liberties advocates and defense attorneys say the plan would allow prosecutors to wrongly pressure people who have not been convicted of any crime to give the government a DNA sample. Federico Sayre, an attorney who represented Rodney King in his case against Los Angeles, said most attorneys would be obliged to advise clients to provide a sample and pay the fee if they can afford it — even if the client asserts his or her innocence — to avoid a possibly prolonged, and more punitive, legal experience.