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SF Appeals Court Upholds California Law On DNA Collection From Felony Suspects

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A member of the forensic section of the French gendarmerie (Cellule d'Identification Criminelle, CIC) prepares a small stick to collect DNA in a laboratory of the gendarmerie in Beauvais on November 21, 2013. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

A swab is prepared to collect DNA. (Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) — A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld California’s law requiring people arrested for felonies to submit samples of their DNA to police.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Thursday said a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding a similar law in Maryland applies to California.

At issue is a law passed by voters in 2004 requiring that all people arrested in California on suspicion of committing a felony supply a DNA sample to police by way of a cheek swab. State Attorney General Kamala Harris and other law enforcement officials say the law is a powerful tool used to solve thousands of “cold cases.” The DNA sample is loaded into a state database and compared against samples collected at crime scenes.

The American Civil Liberties Union objects to DNA collection because not all persons arrested are charged and removing the sample from the database is a lengthy and complicated process.

The 9th Circuit appeared ready to strike down the law after hearing a first round of arguments in 2012. But before the 9th Circuit could rule, the U.S. Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, upheld a similar — but narrower — law in Maryland.

The high court ruled in the Maryland case that taking a cheek swab for DNA was akin to fingerprinting all those who are arrested and was not overly intrusive.

The ACLU also argued that some California arrestees aren’t covered by the high court ruling because Maryland’s law is slightly different and covers only burglaries and violent crimes.

The 9th Circuit said that argument needs to be made before a trial court.

ACLU attorney Michael Risher said the legal battle will continue.

“The ACLU lawsuit will continue, and we are determining what those steps will be,” Risher said.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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