SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — The state senate unanimously passed a genetic privacy bill this week in response to the San Francisco Police Department’s DNA crime lab scandal.
Senate Bill 1228: Genetic Privacy for Sexual Assault Victims prohibits law enforcement from retaining the DNA profiles of sexual assault survivors in a searchable database that could be searched for reasons entirely unrelated to the sexual assault.
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said, “My office exposed the shameful practice of local law enforcement agencies storing and searching DNA obtained from sexual assault survivors to attempt to incriminate them in unrelated crimes. We immediately called for an end to this practice and worked with Senator Wiener on this groundbreaking legislation to make sure no victim has their privacy rights violated in this way again throughout California.”
Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said, “The last thing we need is to send a message to survivors that if they come forward, their DNA sample may be used against them in the future.”
SB 1228 was introduced following Boudin’s discovery that the SFPD was retaining DNA collected from crime victims and then searching that database to incriminate victims in unrelated crimes.
Boudin exposed the practice in February after learning that DNA from a sex assault survivor’s rape kit had been used by police to incriminate her in a property crime six years later.
Boudin refused to prosecute the woman, and instead went after SFPD.
When victims of sexual assault report a sexual assault, they can consent to a sexual assault examination. This evidence can contain the perpetrator’s DNA. The victim submits their own DNA sample in order to exclude DNA that comes from the victim, as opposed to the suspect.
The District Attorney’s Office wrote, “Victims of sexual assault consent to their DNA collection in order to apprehend the perpetrator, not so that their DNA will be retained in a local law enforcement database permanently.”
SB 1228 protects sexual assault survivors and other crime victims by prohibiting the retention of DNA profiles collected from victims by local law enforcement agencies — including rape kits.
The bill also prohibits victims’ DNA from being used for any purpose.
In the wake of the crime lab scandal, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said he took “immediate steps to halt any possibility of a misuse of DNA profiles of victims and survivors moving forward.”