Why does the Orange County DA require DNA?
For most pleas of guilty in Orange County, almost all defendants are surprised to see that the DA requires that DNA be submitted to a local database. So why does the Orange County DA require DNA?(The photograph above is the DNA collection office at the North Justice Center in Fullerton).
You may be wondering why that is, and other than an older Los Angeles Times article, information on the where, what, why, and how of DNA submission (and why it is unique to Orange County criminal cases) is very difficult to find. So why does the Orange County DA require DNA?
How did the Orange County DNA database come to be?
The history starts with the head Orange County District Attorney, Anthony Rackauckas, who is a former Orange County Superior Court judge, going on vacation to Scandinavia. While in Sweden, he met with local prosecutors, who gave a tour and described the benefits of their “secret weapon” – a local Swedish database that collected data for everyone convicted of a crime.
At the time, around 2007, there was a high profile crime in Sweden – a murder of a woman (a single mother with a baby at home), who was killed in her home, and who was stabbed one time by an unknown intruder with such force, that her body was pinned by the knife to the floorboard of her home. That crime was solved by use of a voluntary local database, where some 200 people in a town gave consent to contribute DNA, and it narrowed down, in a relatively genetically non-diverse community, suspects that were a close match, and eventually ended upon in an arrest, a confession, and a conviction for murder.
Mr.Rackauckas, as a former judge, was so impressed with this crime-fighting tool, that he petitioned for, and obtained, funding and procedures to create a local, Orange County only, database, to both solve older “cold case crimes”, and also create a database to match DNA against future crimes.
For any other jurisdiction in California, including courts and prosecutors in Los Angeles, San Diego County, Riverside, or San Bernardino, a DNA database is not maintained, and DNA is not required. This is in Orange County only, and they call it the “spit and acquit”, or the “spit it and quit it” program at the DA’s office (and among defense attorneys).
For certain felony convictions, persons going to State Prison are required to submit a DNA sample under a separate 2004 law applicable to felons.
Who has to submit DNA to the Orange County DA’s database?
As you can imagine, the DNA database has worried some privacy advocates, and some defendants, along with bringing the criticism of some constitutional scholars.
One concern is that the DNA collection lab is not a state qualified lab, and is not approved by the State, which is highly unusual. Another is the rights of the defendant to not consent to DNA testing and to assert their innocence. To get around these concerns, the submission of DNA is made completely voluntary. Only persons that agree, in writing, not to challenge the DNA sample requirement, and then state on video that they give the DNA voluntarily, without force or threats to them, or their loved ones, actually have DNA taken from them.
Why does the Orange County DA require DNA? The Orange County DA’s office policies require DNA whenever there is a dismissal of any count, any charge, or the entire case from the DA. So it is an effective tool during plea bargains with an Orange County criminal defense attorney, as it allows a “carrot on a stick”, as an incentive, to have defendants in criminal cases agree to build up the database and have their charges dismissed.
For certain Orange County drug crimes, certain Orange County shoplifting crimes, and some vandalism and other smaller crimes, the PC 1000 program has been used. That program requires that a plea is entered, and then allows the case to be dismissed at a later date after completion of an educational program. The DNA sample submission was added to this program, with most defendants agreeing to have their case dismissed eventually with all the conditions of the Penal Code 1000 program, including DNA.
For Orange County DUI cases, there is often the offer made to the Orange County DUI attorney or Orange County DUI lawyer handling the case to dismiss one of the two DUI counts (23152(a) and 23152(b)), in exchange for giving DNA. The DUI defendant in an Orange County case would plead guilty to only one of the counts filed, instead of both counts filed, and one would be dismissed. In fact, in 2013, a man who pled guilty to an Orange County DUI and gave his DNA was found to match a formerly unsolved rape case and was promptly charged with the rape.
When DNA is not collected in an Orange County case.
DNA would not apply when there is not a count or charge being dismissed. For example, when the court makes an offer that bypasses or improves upon the DA’s offer, the court is not dismissing any counts, but instead accepting a plea to all counts or charges filed, so DNA would not be necessary.
Also, DNA is only collected once, so if it was collected in the past, there is no offer to submit it again.
Where DNA is collected, and how.
DNA collection offices exist in every courthouse in Orange County (Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Fullerton, and Westminster). An appointment is not required. Only Orange County courthouses have the DNA collection station, as this is an Orange County program only.
The DNA program collects a $75 fee from each defendant for the collection of DNA. After presenting paperwork, and a photo ID, and reading a short statement into a camera, DNA is collected by using a cotton swab that collects saliva by rubbing it inside the cheek.
Why does the Orange County DA require DNA? The Orange County DA requires DNA in the hopes that it will solve future crimes, or provide a resolution of past unsolved cases. But it also arguably gives the defendants an avenue to have charges dismissed.
Our office and our DUI attorney Orange County Robert Miller have experience in dealing with the DNA program of the Orange County District Attorney’s office since its inception. You can contact the firm anytime, or call us at the number at the top of this page with any questions.