What is Orange County DNA Collection and How did it Get Started?
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.
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.https://theintercept.com/2021/07/03/orange-county-prosecutors-dna-surveillance/
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.
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.
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.