A woman who was the victim of a sexual assault claims in a federal complaint filed on Monday that police in San Francisco violated her constitutional rights by using DNA evidence from her rape kit, which was collected years earlier, to make an unrelated burglary arrest.
Woman who only gives her name as “Jane Doe” claims that police obtained her DNA in November 2016 while investigating a sexual assault she claims she suffered. The lawsuit claims that the San Francisco Police Department unlawfully stored her DNA in a database and compared it to crime scene DNA for years.
The lawsuit claims that in December of 2021, an SFPD employee analyzed DNA evidence from a burglary scene against the database and found a match for Doe. Doe was apprehended and charged with many burglary-related felonies after the SFPD obtained an arrest warrant for her based on the DNA match contained in the warrant.
It’s claimed in court that the charges were dismissed. Doe is suing the city, the county, and several police officers, claiming that their use of her DNA constituted an illegal search and seizure in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights.
The DNA of crime victims in San Francisco is being stored in a permanent database without the victims’ knowledge or consent, according to the lawsuit. Despite there being no evidence linking the victims to any of the other crime sites where genetic material was collected, “law enforcement agents screen the victims’ DNA for matches in every subsequent criminal case.”
This case is a “clear example of government overreach,” said the plaintiff’s attorney Adanté Pointer, who specializes in civil rights law.
SFPD did not want to comment, citing the ongoing legal proceedings.
After being served with the lawsuit, the City Attorney’s Office will analyze the case and issue a response, according to a statement published by a spokesperson for the office.
“The City is committed to ensuring all victims of crime feel comfortable reporting issues to law enforcement and has taken efforts to safeguard victim information,” stated City spokesperson Jen Kwart.
Lawsuit filed around seven months after former San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin accused police crime lab of utilizing law enforcement database containing DNA of rape and sexual assault victims. He called it “legally and ethically incorrect” and claimed it could prevent rape and assault victims from coming forward.
According to a statement released by Boudin in February, “Rapes and sexual assault are violent, degrading, and traumatizing.” That victims who are brave enough to undergo invasive examinations to help identify their abusers are treated like criminals rather being supported as crime victims disturbs me.
Police Chief Bill Scott announced in March that, in response to Boudin’s revelation, the San Francisco Police Department had altered its procedures for dealing with victims’ DNA and was working on more long-term policy changes in conjunction with the District Attorney’s office and the California Department of Justice.
Scott remarked at the time, “When disclosures came to our notice regarding our department’s apparent misuse of a DNA profile, I ordered an immediate modification to our crime lab processes insuring that it doesn’t happen again.”
Boudin claimed to have spoken with top-level SFPD crime lab officials who “said that this is a normal practice not only in San Francisco but at other crime labs across the state.”
In the primary election held in June, Brooke Jenkins defeated Boudin and became the next District Attorney.
San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors banned police and other city agencies from entering crime victims’ DNA profiles into city DNA databases in April.