Wednesday, May 2, 2007
C.A. Upholds Taking of DNA Samples From Juvenile Offenders
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A juvenile offender’s interest in confidentiality does not render the taking of a DNA sample unconstitutional, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
While acknowledging that minors who have been adjudicated to be felons have a greater expectation of privacy that adult offenders, Justice Harry Hull said that interest does not override the public interest served by Penal Code Sec. 296, which governs the state DNA Data Base and Data Bank Program.
The panel upheld Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly’s order committing a minor, identified only as Calvin S., to a juvenile facility after sustaining charges of felony car theft and driving without a license. Calvin was arrested by a California Highway Patrol officer who stopped him for a traffic violation and discovered that the car he was operating had been reported stolen less than three hours earlier.
The car was taken after being parked outside a manicurist’s shop in Sacramento. Calvin, the sole occupant of the vehicle when it was stopped, testified that an acquaintance from his old neighborhood asked him to drive the vehicle to the store for him.
Hull, writing for the Court of Appeal, explained that the statute has been upheld against several Fourth Amendment challenges by adult offenders. Those courts have held that the seizure of a DNA sample, which can only be used for law enforcement purposes, is reasonable because the public interest in accurate prosecution outweighs the limited privacy interests of those who have committed serious crimes.
The same considerations, the justice said, apply when the offender is a juvenile. The primary purpose of juvenile court confidentiality, to promote rehabilitation by protecting the juvenile from the stigma of being labeled a criminal, is not impaired by allowing law enforcement agencies to access the minor’s DNA sample or profile, Hull said.
“With the use of DNA samples and the DNA Database so limited, making juveniles subject to the provisions of Penal Code section 296 is hardly a public announcement of a juvenile offender’s felony conviction,” the jurist wrote.
In an unpublished portion of the opinion, the justice rejected the argument that the judge had abused his discretion by continuing the case for a little over a week, after the prosecution said the arresting officer was deployed to New Orleans to assist in hurricane relief efforts.
Hull explained that this was good cause for continuance, and noted that the officer’s testimony was critical, as no other witness had seen Calvin drive the care, and that the hearing was held as soon as the officer returned.
The trial judge did err, the justice acknowledged, in failing to release Calvin from detention after 15 days. The statute requiring release after that time does not make an exception based on good cause for a continuance, Hull explained.
The issue is moot, however, because Calvin did not seek a writ ordering his release, the justice wrote. While the appellate panel would “exercise our discretion to inform the juvenile court of its error” lest it recur, Hull said, Calvin’s unlawful detention had no bearing on the validity of the adjudication.
The case is In re Calvin S., 07 S.O.S. 2296.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company