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Monday, January 16, 2023

Evidence collection. A two way street.

A point I've made about the 21st century. It never ceases to amaze me how little privacy you have. 

Now I'm a bit torn on this case. For those you don't know, when a woman is raped the most critical evidence we can collect comes from a sexual assault examination kit, commonly called a "Rape Kit." By all accounts, it's almost as bad as the rape itself. You are stripped of all your clothing (it's retained for examination for evidence and prosecution), your pubic hair is combed or cut, your fingernails are scraped to collect forensic evidence. Not pleasant, to say the least, while you are likely still in shock.

During the police academy the staff showed a video of an actual exam (yes, the woman had been raped, but she consented and her face was obscured). This is a video using CGI for the medical personnel and victim.


Now we have an interesting case from the People's Democratic Republic of Kalifornia. A woman had her DNA collected in a sexual assault investigation. This evidence was later used against her in an unrelated crime.  

Woman whose rape kit DNA was used to arrest her intends to sue San Francisco

The San Francisco Police Department’s crime lab has stopped the practice of using DNA collected from victims of rape and sexual assault to connect them to unrelated crimes, a police spokesperson said.

A woman whose DNA from a sexual assault examination was later used by police to arrest her in connection with an unrelated property crime plans to sue the city and county of San Francisco, her attorney announced Thursday.

Adante Pointer and his client intend to file the lawsuit after a 45-day waiting period mandated by law for officials to respond to the notice of intent to file suit, Pointer told The Times.

The San Francisco Police Department “and perhaps other police departments have been compiling a Google-like database of crime survivors’ DNA, which they then use to investigate unrelated crimes,” Pointer said.

There doesn’t appear to be an expiration date or limit on how authorities use the DNA, the attorney said, and victims aren’t provided notice that their DNA is being stored for use in future criminal investigations and “any number of other activities...”

I'm in no way soft on crime, but in this case, I would agree that this evidence should not be used for other offenses. One, it will discourage rape victims from coming forward if they know the evidence make be used against them in unrelated cases. Two, medical information is, for the most part, confidential or in some cases privileged. While privileged information cannot be obtained, confidential can be with legal authorization (e.g., search warrant). If the evidence can show a homicide suspect, then a judge should look that over before the cops get access. But not for a property crime.

Well, it looks like this matter will be handled by the legislature. The people who should handle. 

...State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced a bill Feb. 17 that would ban law enforcement from using DNA gathered as part of sexual assault and rape examinations against victims...

Thank you Sen. Wiener for handing this matter. I think an absolute ban may not be the way to go, it should not be open season on rape victims. 

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