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February 20, 2022 (San Diego) - DNA is a godsend for law enforcement, especially so these days when so many cases involving the science behind other methods of police lab work are being questioned, like bite mark comparisons and blood spatter analysis.

You only have to look at how the Golden State Killer was nabbed or watch television shows like CSI to know the attraction DNA genealogical evidence and databases hold for law enforcement. So you can imagine how the criminal justice establishment panicked over the recent revelations of the misuse of DNA samples in a San Francisco case.
That city’s district attorney, Chesa Boudin, said police used a database with DNA collected from victims of rape and sexual assault to solve another crime. He was pretty adamant about it being illegal and unethical — and a possible violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches.  
While he didn’t specify what database was used, this does point to DNA’s big problem.  What are the rules in its use? What can be collected and where?  
Asked whether the San Diego County District Attorney‘s office had seen anything approaching what happened in San Francisco in cases here, Communications Director Steve Walker said the office “has not received any cases where there was a request to charge a sexual assault victim with a crime based on DNA evidence developed from the victim’s sexual assault kit.” 
Walker also noted that section 13823.11 of the state’s penal code sets minimum standards for the examination and treatment of sexual assault victims. While this section may have been followed to collect the DNA, there are no limitations on how it might be eventually used, such as tying a rape victim to a crime.
Given this recent revelation, you can expect more calls for the creation of some sort of uniform code to control the collection and use of DNA for criminal cases.
J.W. August is an award-winning journalist and freelance producer who has served as investigative producer for NBC 7 San Diego and as managing editor and senior investigative producer at ABC 10 San Diego. His in-depth investigations have included a wide range of topics such as  rising seas, hate groups, nuclear fuel storage, stem cell clinic claims, dolphin deaths, and massage parlors as fronts for organized crime.

His 40-year career includes many honors, notably 35 Emmy awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the National Press Club award for consumer reporting, the Freedom Foundation award for coverage of hate groups along the border, the National Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine Award for fostering open government in San Diego, and the Investigative Reporters and Editors award for outstanding investigative reporting on illegal waste dumping.

August is past president of the Society of Professional Journalist’ San Diego Chapter , as well as past president of Californians Aware, a public interest group devoted to helping the press and public hold public officials accountable for their actions. He is also an adjunct professor at Point Loma Nazarene University, teaching investigative skills and long-form storytelling to aspiring future journalists.



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