Navigating the Orange County DNA Collection: Legal Concerns and Protecting Your Genetic Privacy

Three Important Points:

  1. Origins and Purpose: The Orange County DNA Collection program, initiated by Tony Rackauckas during his time as head of the Orange County District Attorney Office, collects DNA samples, primarily via saliva, from individuals charged with low-level misdemeanors. The aim is to assist law enforcement in investigating unresolved crimes, but this has sparked significant privacy and civil liberty concerns.
  2. Permanent Inclusion & Extended Implications: Once an individual’s DNA is submitted to the Orange County DNA Collection, it remains there indefinitely. Law enforcement can run this DNA against any crime scene evidence, regardless of the severity of the crime. Furthermore, the inclusion of one’s DNA could potentially implicate blood relatives in criminal investigations.
  3. Considerations for Submission: Those facing misdemeanors in Orange County might be offered deals in exchange for their DNA, potentially leading to lighter sentences or quicker case resolutions. However, the long-term implications of submitting one’s DNA are substantial, both for the individual and their relatives, especially given the indefinite retention of the samples and the continuous checks against new crime scenes.

What is Orange County DNA Collection and How did it Get Started?

In the heart of Orange County, California, a contentious program known as the Orange County DNA Collection has ignited debates surrounding genetic privacy and law enforcement practices. Initiated under the leadership of Tony Rackauckas during his tenure as the head of the Orange County District Attorney Office, this program gathers genetic samples, primarily through saliva, from individuals facing low-level misdemeanor charges such as shoplifting, DUI, hit and runs, and public intoxication. While designed to aid law enforcement in solving unresolved crimes, the program has raised significant concerns among advocates of privacy and civil liberties. This article delves into the intricacies of the Orange County DNA Collection, shedding light on its controversial nature and potential implications for both the individuals involved and their extended families.

Learn about alternative options for resolving misdemeanor charges without participating in the DNA Collection, and find out if these avenues are suitable for your case.

The Orange County DNA Collection was started by Tony Rackauckas when he was heading the Orange County District Attorney Office, which collects a DNA profile (genetic samples via saliva samples) of low-level misdemeanors defendants for law enforcement purposes. These misdemeanors include shoplifting, DUI, hit and runs and drunk in public

This is a sample of the DNA Collections Agreement
This is a sample of the agreement you sign in Orange County Superior Court when you give your DNA

Orange County DNA Collection is a controversial topic that is practiced in Orange County California. Some people view it as a genetic surveillance program. The genetic collection program is then shared with law enforcement agencies to investigate unresolved crimes.  This program has come under fire from privacy and civil liberties advocates. 

The scheme is questionably legal and ethically dubious. “The prosecution of marginal petty misdemeanor cases has allowed prosecutors to create a vast genetic surveillance system that would otherwise not exist,” University of California, Berkeley law professor Andrea Roth wrote in a 2019 law review article on the OCDA program, known locally as “spit and acquit.” Roth was the first to do a deep dive into the “vast, secretive” database.

As a criminal defense attorney who deals with thousands of cases in the Orange County Superior Court System, I routinely get questions from people about whether they should submit a DNA sample to the Orange County DNA Collection program. The Orange County district Attorneys’ Office will want DNA collection on the first day of court. Giving a DNA sample in orange county court is a way to resolve your case of misdemeanor charges.

The prosecutors in Orange County’s courts, whether in Santa Ana or Westminster, will make you an offer requiring you to put your DNA into the Orange County District Attorney DNA Database. This may be in exchange for a lighter sentence in minor crimes or sometimes just to resolve the case on that day, so you need not come back to court.

There is no simple answer to this. Unfortunately, I must give the lawyerly answer as it is up to you, however below three things to know about submitting to the Orange County DNA Collection Database in exchange for a dismissal or reduction in your case.

Educate yourself about your rights regarding genetic privacy and the potential consequences of participating in the DNA Collection program. – Hieu Vu – Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

1. Once you submit your DNA sample to Orange County Court, it is there forever. 

Once you enter the DNA Collection program, there is no way out. The Orange County District Attorneys’ office and their partners in Law enforcement may run your DNA for all anytime they want and for all types of crimes, whether it be past, present, or future crime. If they run a violent crime scene and evidence includes blood or semen, they could compare it with your DNA to see if it matches you.  

I have been cases where people were accused of crimes 20 years later because they gave their DNA to the OCDA to get a wet reckless conviction. 

 2. Once you do the  DNA Collection in Orange County Court, they can go after your family members and blood related. 

Maybe you have nothing to be concerned about because what you did was considered low-level crimes in the eye of law enforcement. However, you may have a blood cousin or brother whose DNA profiles can be found at the scene of a compromising situation which can indicate them in a criminal charge. (sex crimes/violent crime). By including your DNA in the Orange County District Attorneys’ private database, you will be exposing them to prosecution.  

 3. Your DNA can be searched anytime without you knowing after you submit DNA sample in Orange County Court. 

Learn about alternative options for resolving misdemeanor charges without participating in the DNA Collection, and find out if these avenues are suitable for your case.

Your DNA is not run just once. It can be run thousands and not millions of times without you even knowing. Once you make it into OCDA’s private database, they will run your DNA every time they find a crime scene sample or investigate a new case to compare it with what they have in their database.  This is regardless of the seriousness of the crime. The genetic material and crime scene samples can be from minor crimes, domestic violence or a murder scene. They can run it anytime without your permission. 

Can my DNA sample in orange county court be used to frame me?

Most likely not. It is not like your DNA will be sitting around in a Petri glass for someone to take to a crime scene. Instead, your biological samples will be digitized and made into a profile.

Can I retract my DNA?

No, there are no takebacks once you do the DNA collection with the Orange County District Attorneys’ office. The genetic profiles will be kept and searched indefinitely. With technology, it will stay indefinitely, which is one reason why privacy advocates are fighting against the collection program.

Does it only relate to me?

As discussed above, no. If your DNA is like someone at a crime scene, they will start looking at your family members, and charges can be filed. (
Murder charges, sex offenders )

Are there other ways to a deal?

Yes, there are alternatives to giving to the DNA collection at the courthouse, and there are other ways to get misdemeanor plea deals that result in dismissal without having to provide biological material.

Is there a needle involved?

No, DNA collection at the district attorneys only involves a cotton swab.

Is there a fee?

It will cost you a $110 fee to get your DNA into the system.


Giving a DNA sample to the Orange County DNA Collection means you are letting the state take a sample of your DNA for analyzing then keeping it in their database. This database is later used for law enforcement purposes and investigation in the past, current and future crimes. Besides having your DNA and tracing crimes back to you, the state will also have access to those close to you if you are related. Briefly, by giving your DNA to the Orange County DNA Collection to avoid a misdemeanor charge, you are exposing yourself or several other people, including yourself, to felonies.

In the realm of genetic surveillance and law enforcement strategies, the Orange County DNA Collection program stands as a complex and contentious initiative. As the state compels individuals facing minor misdemeanor charges to provide their DNA samples, the program blurs the boundaries between genetic privacy and criminal investigation. Once a DNA sample is submitted, it becomes a permanent part of the Orange County District Attorney’s genetic database, subjecting the individual, as well as their blood relatives, to potential future scrutiny. Ultimately, while the program offers a pathway to resolving misdemeanor cases swiftly, it simultaneously poses intricate questions about genetic autonomy, law enforcement’s reach, and the intricate web of consequences that extend far beyond the courtroom.

Engage in conversations with your family members about the possible consequences of your DNA being part of a law enforcement database and how it could impact them as well.

Hieu Vu

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Hand down the best attorney I have ever worked with!!! My friend recommended Hieu because I needed to expunge something I did when I was young and dumb. Hieu is very humble, personable, and made me feel very comfortable. He's surprisingly funny too. Something not all lawyers are / can do. His pricing is very reasonable and he updated me on everything frequently. I highly recommend him!!!!

Lila K

I had interviewed many attorneys to discuss my very unfortunate situation that was set by someone I knew. Hieu Vu was the most honest, caring, and professional attorney with compassion and empathy I ever interviewed. HE REALLY HAD A HEART. His fees were very reasonable and he will fight for you not just for your dollars but because he cares for his clients... I would strongly recommend him if you feel your life is upside down. Things happen but we learn to become better person.

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