Gov. Jerry Brown has signed AB 1492, legislation authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), which revamps and improves California’s DNA-testing laws.
Without the new law, thousands of offenders arrested for lesser crimes could slip by law enforcement, Gatto said.
“The people of California are sympathetic to persons who spend years in jail for minor crimes, but we remain sickened by violent criminals who escape justice and reoffend,” Gatto said. “AB 1492 is a balanced, comprehensive bill that will improve our state’s DNA-collection program to ensure that police can still use this important tool.”
The need for AB 1492 arose in December 2014, when the Court of Appeal in People v. Buza dealt a blow to law enforcement and the use of DNA in criminal investigations. The court struck down most of Proposition 69, California’s landmark DNA crime-solving law, finding aspects of the initiative unconstitutional. The ruling effectively halted DNA collection from arrestees in California.
If the Supreme Court upholds the case – which is likely to be heard next fall – it could be 2018 before a newly passed law could take effect, Gatto said. AB 1492 will create a DNA-testing program that includes the constitutional protections of a Maryland law that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Like the Maryland law, AB 1492 would allow DNA collection from all felons who are arrested, and would permit the sample to be uploaded to the state’s database after a judicial finding of probable cause. To protect the innocent, the legislation would also create a framework in which the DNA sample is removed 8 when a case is dismissed, or the accused is acquitted or exonerated. Allowing collection at the point of arrest, combined with additional constitutional protections, will expedite the investigative process and aid law enforcement in focusing their efforts on other suspects, Gatto added.
As of June 2015, DNA evidence has helped more than 33,605 criminal investigations in California, and more than 288,298 criminal investigations nationwide.
“DNA evidence works, and has proven to help solve some of the state’s most violent crimes,” Gatto said. “This is a proactive step in the right direction to help grieving families and victims obtain the justice they deserve.”
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