now proposed: take DNA of all who get arrested


June 13, 2004, 09:28 PM

Proposition to take DNA at arrest stirs privacy fears
Mandatory sampling on November ballot

- John Wildermuth, Chronicle Political Writer
Saturday, June 12, 2004

A man who lost his brother to an unknown serial killer has bankrolled a November ballot measure that would force everyone arrested for a felony in California to provide a DNA sample.

Although backers of the measure say such a greatly expanded DNA database could clear up thousands of unsolved crimes, civil rights activists argue it would give the government access to too much information about too many people.

"DNA is not like a fingerprint, since getting it is more invasive and it holds information beyond mere identification,'' said Tania Simoncelli, a science and technology fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union. "Storing it permanently for future criminal investigations doesn't comply with the Constitution.''

That's not the way Bruce Harrington, a Newport Beach attorney and developer, sees it. Harrington spent more than $1.3 million to qualify the initiative for the ballot and is confident he'll win the support of California voters in November.

"It's really a shame that California is so far behind when it comes to collecting DNA, when there's compelling information from other states about how effective it can be,'' Harrington said.

He said that under the ballot measure, "At the same time someone has a mug shot and fingerprints taken after an arrest, he'll have a mouth swab (for DNA) and that's it.''

California already requires DNA samples from everyone convicted of a serious felony. The initiative, which does not yet have a ballot number, would immediately require DNA samples from everyone convicted of any felony, as well as those arrested for murder or rape. The ballot measure requires that beginning in 2009, DNA samples would be collected from anyone arrested for a felony.

"Today, with a state DNA database of more than 220,000 samples, we have increased the number of 'hits' from one a year to an average of more than one a day,'' said state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, a co-chair of the initiative campaign. "By including DNA samples from all felons, we should have a database of more than 1 million DNA profiles that will help California law enforcement use this proven, high-tech tool to quickly solve even more criminal cases and prevent more crimes from being committed.''

The crime Harrington really wants solved is the 1980 slaying of his brother and his sister-in-law. Keith Harrington, a 24-year-old medical student at UC Irvine, and Patti, his wife of three months, were in bed when an intruder broke into their Orange County home, bound them both, raped Patti and beat the two young people to death.

In 2000, DNA from the murder scene was matched with evidence from eight other Southern California slayings. It also was linked to the never-identified East Area Rapist, who terrorized Northern California in the late 1970s, raping at least 40 women in a rampage that stretched from Sacramento to San Ramon.

The attacks stopped abruptly in 1986, leading police to conclude that the unknown killer, now dubbed the original "Night Stalker," had either died, moved or been sent to prison.

"I'm firmly convinced that the only way we can solve my family's crime is to find an inmate in for an unrelated conviction who hasn't given up his DNA," Harrington said.

Harrington's efforts haven't always won him friends. He's no fan of state Democratic Sen. John Burton of San Francisco, who he believes has tried to block efforts to expand DNA testing laws.

"All I see and hear from Senator Burton, his staff and his cronies is a buzz saw of opposition and obfuscation, focused more on the rights of prisoners than on the rights of their victims,'' Harrington said in an April 2002 appearance before Burton's Public Safety Committee. Burton denies those charges.

Harrington said it wasn't a hard decision to spend the $1.3 million it took to collect 660,000 signatures for the ballot initiative.

"I was convinced the DNA bills would be stalled forever by the Democratic leadership (of the state Senate),'' Harrington said. "This way I can bypass them, put it in front of the voters and let them decide.

"I don't see how you can put a price on the life of a brother.''

During the fall campaign, opponents of the initiative are likely to focus on privacy concerns and the multimillion dollar cost of the expanded DNA database. While the initiative would boost all criminal fines, including traffic tickets, by 10 percent to pay those costs, opponents argue that would not be enough. The privacy protections in the measure also aren't sufficient to protect the public, said Simoncelli of the ACLU.

"We feel this initiative is impractical, unworkable and unaffordable,'' she said. "The ACLU is not opposed to using DNA evidence, but it's a different question about whether that information should be stored permanently.''

Although the initiative allows people to have their DNA information pulled from the database and destroyed if they have been found innocent or released without charges, it requires a court order and a complicated stack of paperwork before it can be done.

Supporters argue that DNA samples are nothing more than high-tech fingerprints, which already are taken from everyone arrested and stored forever.

E-mail John Wildermuth at

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June 13, 2004, 10:16 PM

This is not just for persons convicted of felonies, but also for those merely charged with felonies.

Lengthier information there.

June 13, 2004, 10:24 PM
This is very familiar. I mean it's freaky, like maybe I just saw this an hour or so ago.


June 13, 2004, 10:53 PM
Sounds like Mr. Harrington ought to be living in the Communist Soviet Union.

Until you are convicted, you are innocent.

June 13, 2004, 10:54 PM
Whoops, missed the previous thread and I did look first. Need more sleep.

Any way to delete/close this thread?

Standing Wolf
June 13, 2004, 11:19 PM
By including DNA samples from all felons, we should have a database of more than...

Lockyer doesn't see a difference between felons and those accused of felonies. I think he'd be much happier in Franceā€”or communist China, for that matter.

June 14, 2004, 03:26 AM
GATTACA here we come.

June 14, 2004, 06:40 AM
Until you are convicted, you are innocent

Please correct me if I am wrong but don't the police take your fingerprints, photograph your face ( scars ?)and make notes of scars when you are arrested not when you are convicted.

From the viewpoint of Forensic ID not much different from fingerprints. Their was similar controversy when police started taking fingerprints and I have read of legal cases contesting the taking of fingerprints from that era. As well as legal cases contesting the taking of photographs upon arrest.

I still have not made up my mind about this one. Maybe because I love seeing serious, i.e. violent , felons caught and convicted.


June 14, 2004, 07:43 AM

an intruder broke into their Orange County home, bound them both, raped Patti and beat the two young people to death.


You know, if just ONE of those victims would've had an evil little .38 revolver, we wouldn't even be discussing this.

June 14, 2004, 07:51 AM
There is also a smaller margin of error with DNA, which may wind up clearing as many improperly accused suspects as identifying guilty ones.

June 14, 2004, 08:20 AM
Hey, aren't unregistered AR-15 owners felons in California?

Dang skippy! Stomp on them felons! Take their DNA! Round 'em up!

another okie
June 14, 2004, 10:28 AM
Taking your fingerprints and photo when arrested and before being convicted are also problems for privacy. They are necessary to make sure that the person held and on trial is the same person arrested or released.

DNA is a whole different level. It can be used to reveal all kinds of personal information unrelated to the identity of the person - kinship, race, likelihood of certain diseases. There are plenty of folks who would be uninsurable if their DNA got into the hands of an insurance data base. I suppose eventually the government will fingerprint and DNA sample everyone at birth and require us to wear GPS trackers at all times, but I would prefer to hold off on that as long as possible.

June 14, 2004, 03:12 PM
Ohio can't even find the funds to process the DNA samples they've collected from convicted felons. I'm pretty sure California is in even worse finacial straits than Ohio right now, and that they arrest a lot more people. Where are they going to come up with the funds?

Article about Ohio's backlog of samples.

IMHO we shouldn't be collecting dna without a court order, and we shouldn't be storing that info unless the person is convicted of a felony.

We definately shouldn't a fortune in tax money to violate our citizen's privacy.

June 14, 2004, 03:29 PM
This is why you should always question supposed authority.

After watching the OJ trial and observing the numerous versions of "Cause I Wanted To" demonstrated by the Authorities and their Experts one can only wonder what other strange concepts will be exhibited.

The question of DNA and identification does not lend itself to sound byte style analysis. It should be questioned as to just what exactly is being analyzed and more importantly how the samples are to be handled and the results dealt with.

If you were only talking about asking someone to give DNA to help exclude them from a crime AND the sample and results are immediately destroyed upon a negative test, that means no govt. database, I would probably with many not yet articulated reservations consider it.

What you are now, CA referendum,talking about is a wholesale sampling of numerous people, guilty or innocent, with a permanent storage of results in a publicly available database. No good for Society or Individuals will come from this! Repeat X3!

The easiest attack if this is passed is to make anyone misuseing and their superiors personally liable for any criminal and civil penalties. Won't happen cause the Kings/States agents are not to be hampered by a mere thing like the Law.

Standing Wolf
June 14, 2004, 04:56 PM
In some jurisdictions, if you're found innocent, your finger print cards and mug shots are returned to you.

Jeff White
June 14, 2004, 05:06 PM
Standing Wolf said;
In some jurisdictions, if you're found innocent, your finger print cards and mug shots are returned to you.


Fingerprint cards go through the state (in most cases) to the FBI. I could see an agency returning their copy, but the FBI and in most cases the state will still receive a copy.

Get arrested and printed and it's forever....This is the cause of many NICS delays. The arrest has been reported, but the court disposition is often missing, so the FBI only has a record of an arrest nothing on if there was a conviction, aquittal, charges being dropped etc.


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