SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Could thousands of rapes and murders go unsolved in California because of problems with a ballot initiative? asks Assemblyman Mike Gatto. Unfortunately, yes. If the California Supreme Court upholds a lower court decision, California’s DNA testing law could be thrown out. The Senate Public Safety Committee voted 7-0 to pass Gatto’s (D-Glendale) legislation, which is a rare example of the legislature seeking to proactively fix these problems.
In December 2014, a California Court of Appeal struck down California’s criminal-DNA-testing program (Proposition 69) in People v. Buza, finding several aspects unconstitutional and dealing a huge setback to law enforcement’s ability to solve crimes. In February, the California Supreme Court granted review of the Buza decision. While the Supreme Court considers the case, DNA collection of felony arrestees has temporarily resumed.
“The Buza decision could cripple law enforcement, preventing them from using DNA to solve crime,” said Gatto, who practiced constitutional law before being elected to the legislature.
Gatto’s legislation, AB 1492, aims to address the court’s concerns with Prop. 69 by allowing DNA to be collected from those arrested for felonies, and upon court process and a finding of probable cause. To protect the wrongfully accused, arrested, charged, or convicted, the DNA sample can be destroyed if the case is dismissed or if the accused is acquitted or otherwise exonerated. These components are expressly contingent on the Supreme Court upholding the Buza decision.
Finally, the measure establishes best practices for allowing buccal swab samples to be taken as a condition of a plea or dismissal of charges, if all uses of the DNA sample have been disclosed to the defendant in writing and the defendant has signed a written agreement.
“The people of California are sympathetic to persons who spend years in jail for minor crimes, but we remain sickened by violent criminals who escape justice and reoffend,” said Gatto. “AB 1492 is a balanced, comprehensive bill that will improve our state’s DNA-testing program.”
Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Consumer Protection and Privacy Committee, and the longest-serving current member of the State Assembly. He represents California’s 43rd Assembly District, which includes Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake. www.asm.ca.gov/gatto