SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KRON) — The Senate Public Safety Committee unanimously passed a bill on Tuesday that will prevent law enforcement from using the DNA of sexual assault survivors for anything unrelated to the sexual assault. San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and California State Senator Scott Wiener authored and co-sponsored the bill (Senate Bill 1228).
The issue became a hot topic in February, when Boudin condemned the practice of using rape victims’ DNA to arrest them for future crimes. Not long after, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said that his department would no longer misuse this DNA.
“Public safety demands that we encourage and support survivors who come forward to undergo sexual assault examinations—and eliminate barriers to reporting. The shameful practice that my office exposed of a crime lab retaining and then searching survivors’ DNA to incriminate them in unrelated crimes is unethical and violates their privacy,” Boudin said.
Boudin was “shocked” to learn about the practice, worrying that it would dissuade sexual assault victims from coming forward. Less than 25 percent of sexual assault survivors report the crime to police, according to a statistic released by Boudin’s office.
“When someone survives a sexual assault, getting a sexual assault examination can help law enforcement find or prosecute the perpetrator. Survivors’ privacy must be protected when they undergo these exams. Sexual assault exams can feel traumatic and invasive, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that survivors who get these exams done are protected,” Wiener said.
SB 1228 will ensure that DNA collected from sexual assault survivors is only used to help identify the suspect in the assault. Federal law already prohibited adding victims’ DNA to the national Combined DNA Index System, but there had been no California state law that prevented local law enforcement agencies from retaining victim DNA.