The San Diego Police Department has found a way around a state law designed to protect juveniles from being forced to submit DNA, reports Voice of San Diego. Under a 2004 law, DNA samples can be collected only from youths convicted of a felony or registered as a sex offender. But San Diego police are skirting the law by maintaining a separate database — one that’s not linked to state or federal DNA databases. According to department policy, as long as a DNA profile remains in the local database, officers can collect DNA from anyone for “investigative purposes.” The policy requires only that officers get a signed consent from the minor. It doesn’t require them to notify the minor’s parent or guardian until after the sample’s been taken.
A lawsuit filed Tuesday by the ACLU challenges that policy, arguing that a juvenile is incapable of providing informed consent, especially if he or she is being coerced by law enforcement. The lawsuit also raises questions about which juveniles are being targeted by the policy and why. Experts interviewed were unaware of any other law enforcement agency in California that collects DNA from juveniles in the field. They acknowledged a local database is a way to get around state rules, but said it also undermines the intent of the law’s strict limits.