California Libertarians Oppose Expanding DNA Database

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The Libertarian Party of California recommends Californians vote against Prop. 69 because it goes too far in collecting DNA samples from innocent people.

The Libertarian Party of California urges California voters to vote down Proposition 69, the ballot initiative that requires government to collect and permanently store in a massive database DNA samples taken from anyone arrested for a felony, whether they are convicted – or even charged with a crime.

Though the proposition allows those who are not convicted to request their DNA samples be returned, the process is a hassle and can be denied without the possibility of appeal.

“Many people cannot easily afford a lawyer in their one-and-only attempt to get their DNA removed from the database,” said Mark Selzer, Southern Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of California. “DNA removal from the database should be an automatic, unequivocal, no-questions-asked policy if a conviction is not obtained. We think it is unfair to place this burden on the innocent.”

Existing laws require the collection, storage and testing of DNA from people convicted of serious and violent felonies, including kidnappers, rapists, murderers and child molesters.

“The existing law is working well,” said Selzer. “It is wrong to extend the existing criminal DNA database to innocent people. Over 50,000 people are arrested and released each year in California, many without ever having charges brought against them. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty and shouldn't be treated by the police as if they have already been convicted when they haven't yet been charged with a crime or gone to trial.”

Once in the database, the presence of an individual’s DNA would make him a de facto suspect in all unsolved crimes for the rest of his life. In effect, Prop. 69 would nullify the right and Constitutional protection to be free of unreasonable searches. Prop. 69 would effectively doom anyone arrested for a felony to a fate analogous to being called in for a line-up or having his car searched every time a serious crime occurs anywhere in the state, whether or not there is cause to suspect the individual.

Though perhaps rare, laboratory mistakes happen through mishandling of samples or poorly trained technicians.

“The fact that DNA can be used to identify people with such a high probability has misled juries into convicting wrongly when mundane lab errors like swapped samples occur,” said Selzer. "If the DNA database is enlarged to include thousands of innocent people each year, the chance of an innocent person being wrongly arrested or even convicted is greatly increased. We believe that sacrifice isn’t worth the price.”

Moreover, like everything else the government does, Prop. 69 comes with a price tag. According to the legislative analyst, this law will cost California taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Concludes Selzer, “The existing felon DNA database is serving its purpose without unduly infringing the rights of innocent people. We urge the voters of California to join Libertarians in defeating this ill-conceived proposal that goes too far in expanding the DNA database without the appropriate safeguards to protect our rights.”

About the Libertarian Party of California

Libertarians believe in individual freedom and personal responsibility.

The Libertarian Party of California has more than 50 public officeholders statewide and is running more candidates in California in the November general election than any other “third” party.

Every Californian eligible to vote will find the Libertarian candidate for President (Michael Badnarik) Vice-President (Richard Campagna) and U.S. Senate (Judge James Gray) on their ballot. Many will also be able to vote for one or more of the 24 Libertarian candidates running for U.S. Congress, 12 for California Senate, 34 for California Assembly, or others running for local offices such as city council, school board or special district.

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Richard Newell
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