Sunday, December 7, 2014

Buza Reloaded: Court Shifts Ground But Again Invalidates California’s DNA-on-arrest Law

Buza I
For the reasons we have set forth, we conclude that the DNA Act ... unreasonably intrudes on such arrestees' expectation of privacy and is invalid under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Buza II
For the reasons we have set forth, we conclude that the DNA Act ... unreasonably intrudes on such arrestees’ expectation of privacy and is invalid under article I, section 13, of the [California] Constitution.

Nearly seven years ago, Mark Buza set a San Francisco police car on fire to protest what he said was a corrupt government. Spotted running from the burning car, he was promptly arrested and brought to the county jail. There, he engaged in a second act of defiance, refusing to allow police to swab the inside of his cheeks to acquire a DNA sample. (He did, however, acquiesce in fingerprinting and writing a signature.) After his conviction for arson-related crimes as well as the separate offense of refusing to submit to DNA sampling, a court ordered him to give a sample before sentencing. In a third act of resistance, he refused, but when the court issued a further order allowing police to use force, he finally submitted to the swabbing. His DNA profile entered the California database, apparently without incriminating him in any other crimes.

The California Court of Appeal reversed the conviction for resisting “the seizure of his DNA at a time when he was entitled to the presumption of innocence, and [when] there had been no judicial determination of probable cause to believe he committed the offense for which he was arrested ... .” California's DNA-collection law, the court reasoned, “violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.” The court expressly declined to consider whether compelling DNA collection before a judicial finding of probable cause violated Buza’s “right to privacy under article I, section 1, of the California Constitution.”

The California Supreme Court granted review, vacated the appellate court’s judgment, and ordered that court to reconsider its reversal of the DNA-refusal conviction in light of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Maryland v. King, 133 S.Ct. 1958 (2013).

In a lengthy opinion issued four days ago, the Court of Appeal, like Buza himself, stuck to its guns. For a second time, it held that the California initiative that mandates DNA sampling on arrest (and that has been upheld by several other courts) is unconstitutional. However, the court shifted ground. Now Presiding Justice Anthony Kline wrote: “we question whether King establishes the validity of the California Act’s application to arrestees under the Fourth Amendment. We base our decision, however, solely upon article I, section 13, of the California Constitution, which in our view undoubtedly prohibits the search and seizure at issue.” (Emphasis added.)

I’ll leave it to California’s bar, bench, and scholars to debate how and why the Court of Appeal can be so certain that California’s constitution, which essentially reproduces the words of the Fourth Amendment, compels a different result than King might warrant. Here, I want to consider the Court of Appeal's analysis of the outcome that should follow under the U.S. Constitution as construed in King.

[Next installment]

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