A sexual assault victim filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging that San Francisco police violated her constitutional rights by relying on DNA taken from her rape kit years ago to arrest her in an unrelated robbery case.
The woman, identified only as “Jane Doe,” alleges that law enforcement officers took her DNA in November 2016 as part of an investigation into her sexual assault. The San Francisco Police Department then, without her consent, put that DNA into a database and has for years tested it against crime scene DNA, according to the lawsuit.
In December 2021, an SFPD employee matched DNA from a robbery crime scene to the database and matched Doe to the crime, according to the lawsuit. SFPD sought a warrant for Doe’s arrest and based on the DNA match on the warrant, she was arrested and charged with various burglary-related offenses.
The charges were later dropped, the lawsuit says. Doe argues in the lawsuit against the city and county and multiple police officers that the use of his DNA represented an unlawful search and seizure and violated his civil rights.
“This case brings to light the San Francisco Police Department’s shocking practice of placing crime victims’ DNA in a permanent database without the victims’ knowledge or consent,” the lawsuit states. “Law enforcement officers analyze victims’ DNA for matches in every subsequent criminal investigation in which genetic material is recovered without any reasonable basis to suspect that the victims are connected in any way to these crime scenes that have no match. relationship”.
Civil rights attorney Adanté Pointer, who is representing the plaintiff, said in a statement that the case was a “clear example of government overreach.”
San Francisco police declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit.
A spokeswoman for the City Attorney’s Office released a statement saying they will review the complaint and respond once the lawsuit has been filed.
“The city is committed to ensuring that all crime victims feel comfortable reporting issues to law enforcement and has taken steps to safeguard victim information,” spokeswoman Jen Kwart said.
The lawsuit comes about seven months after then-San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin accused the police department’s crime lab to use a law enforcement database that includes DNA from rape and sexual assault victims. He criticized the practice as “legally and ethically wrong” and said it could discourage victims of rape and assault to come forward.
“Rape and sexual assault are violent, dehumanizing and traumatic,” Boudin said in a statement in February. “I am concerned that victims who have the courage to undergo invasive screening to help identify their perpetrators will be treated as criminals rather than supported as crime victims.”
In the wake of Boudin’s revelation, San Francisco police implemented changes to the handling of victims’ DNA and were working on permanent policy changes in conjunction with the California district attorney’s office and the Justice Department, Chief Bill Scott said. in March.
“When revelations about the possible misuse of a DNA profile by our department were brought to our attention, I ordered an immediate change in our crime lab practices to ensure it does not happen again,” Scott said in a statement there. moment.
Boudin said he had conversations with SFPD crime lab leadership that “suggest that this is routine practice not only in San Francisco but in other crime labs throughout the state.”
Boudin was removed as district attorney in the June primary election and was replaced by Brooke Jenkins.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors in April passed a law that prohibited the police or other city departments upload or store DNA profiles of crime victim reference samples in the city’s DNA databases.