A federal judge in San Francisco today refused to block California’s policy of collecting DNA samples from people who are arrested but not convicted of any crime.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer turned down a request by two citizens for a preliminary injunction halting the policy, which went into effect at the beginning of this year.

Breyer said in a written order that the government’s compelling interest in using DNA to identify arrestees and to solve past crimes outweighs the privacy interests of people who are arrested.

The collection of the samples was mandated by a 2004 voter initiative, Proposition 69, which gradually expanded the categories of people in the criminal justice system from whom DNA is taken.

A section requiring authorities to take a sample from any adult who is arrested for a felony, regardless of whether the person is charged or convicted, went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.
Before this year, DNA was generally taken only from people convicted of felonies.

The samples are taken with cheek swabs and are kept at the state’s DNA laboratory in Richmond.

The two citizens who sued the state claimed that DNA samples are far more intrusive than fingerprints, because DNA can reveal a person’s entire genetic blueprint.

Breyer wrote in the order that there is a public interest in “swiftly and accurately solving crimes and seeing the public’s vote honored.”

American Civil Liberties Union lawyers who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the two citizens in October were not immediately available for comment on possible next steps in the case.

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