The California Supreme Court ruled in San Francisco Thursday that juvenile offenders whose misdeeds are reduced from felonies to misdemeanors don’t have the right to have their DNA removed from a state database.
The court said unanimously that a voter-approved law, Proposition 47 of 2014, which allows the reduction of some felony crimes to misdemeanors, does not require the expungement of juveniles’ previously collected DNA data.
The panel ruled in the case of two Contra Costa County youths who were originally found by a juvenile court to have engaged in grand theft.
One youth stole a $46 pair of jeans from a store in Brentwood and kicked a loss prevention officer in the head in 2011.
The other broke into a home in 2013, stole jewelry, a wallet, a cellphone and a Nintendo game and brandished a knife when the owner unexpectedly returned.
Both were declared wards of the juvenile court and were ordered to provide DNA samples. Another law enacted by state voters, Proposition 69 of 2004, requires such samples from juveniles found to have committed offenses that would be classified as felonies if they were tried as adults.
After Proposition 47 was passed in 2014, the youths petitioned to have their offenses reduced to misdemeanor petty thefts and to have their DNA records expunged. Juvenile court judges reduced the offenses, but declined to order the DNA data removed. The youths then appealed.
Justice Carol Corrigan wrote in the high court’s opinion that “no purpose underlying Proposition 47 or 69 requires expungement here.”
Proposition 69 was intended to increase public safety and exoneration of suspects when appropriate through more accurate identification of criminals, and retaining existing DNA samples is consistent with that goal, the court said.
“Proposition 47 reduces punishments for certain crimes as a means of refocusing prison and prosecutorial resources on other crimes judged more serious … Nothing in the retention of samples hinders those aims.”