Woman whose rape DNA led to her arrest sues San Francisco

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SAN FRANCISCO — A rape victim whose DNA from her sexual assault case was used by San Francisco police to arrest her in an unrelated property crime on Monday has filed a lawsuit against the city.

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During a search of a San Francisco Police Department crime lab database, the woman’s DNA was linked to a burglary in late 2021. Her DNA had been collected and stored in the system as part of of a 2016 domestic violence and sexual assault case, then-district attorney Chesa Boudin said in February in a shocking revelation that raised privacy concerns.

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« This is first-rate government interference, using the most unique and personal thing we have – our genetic code – without our knowledge to try to connect us to crime, » the lawyer said. the wife, Adante Pointer, in a statement.

The revelation caused a national outcry from lawyers, law enforcement, legal experts and lawmakers. Lawyers said the practice could affect victims’ willingness to come forward to law enforcement authorities.

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Federal law already prohibits the inclusion of victims’ DNA in the national combined DNA index system. There is no corresponding law in California to prohibit local law enforcement databases from retaining victim profiles and searching them years later for entirely different purposes.

Last month, California lawmakers approved a bill banning the use of DNA profiles collected by police from sexual assault survivors and other victims for purposes other than identifying the perpetrator. Local law enforcement would also be prohibited from retaining and then tracing victims’ DNA to incriminate them in unrelated crimes under the legislation, which is pending before Governor Gavin Newsom.

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Boudin said the report was found among hundreds of pages of evidence against a woman recently charged with a property crime. After learning the source of the DNA evidence, Boudin dropped the property crime charges against the woman.

The police department’s crime lab ended the practice shortly after receiving a complaint from the district attorney’s office and formally changed its operating procedure to prevent the misuse of DNA taken from victims. of sexual assault, police chief Bill Scott said.

Scott told a police board meeting in March that he uncovered 17 profiles of crime victims, including 11 from rape kits, who were matched as potential suspects using a database of crime victims in unrelated investigations. Scott said he believed the only person arrested was the woman who filed the lawsuit on Monday.

The woman filed the lawsuit under the pseudonym Jane Doe to protect her privacy, Pointer said. The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they choose to be named.

California allows local law enforcement laboratories to operate their own forensic databases, separate from federal and state databases. The law also allows city labs to perform forensic analysis, including DNA profiling, and use these databases — without regulation by the state or others.


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