Most states have few or no restrictions on the ability of law enforcement to collect a “voluntary” DNA sample from minors, with nothing more than the minor’s permission.Stuart Leavenworth, “If Police Try to Take DNA From Your Kid, Do They Need Your Consent First?,” McClatchy DC Bureau, October 5, 2018.
In September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that prohibits DNA collection “without first obtaining written consent of the minor and approval of the minor’s consent by a parent, legal guardian, or attorney.”California AB 1584 (2018). The new law—enacted in response to a suit by the ACLU against the San Diego police department that alleged officers targeted black youth for DNA collection—includes exemptions to the parental consent requirement, such as cases in which the young person is the victim and the parent a potential suspect.Leavenworth, “If Police Try to Take DNA,” 2018. “Kids are more susceptible to the coercive nature of police, so it’s important to parents [that they] have a role in making these decisions,” said Jamie L. Williams, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group that supported the California legislation. “Kids are so young they probably don’t even think about having their DNA in a database, which has implications for their entire family.”Leavenworth, “If Police Try to Take DNA,” 2018. Williams hopes the new California law will be a model for other states. Many adults—as well as youth—may not realize they have the right to refuse a police request for DNA.