An Encanto family received thousands of dollars from the city of San Diego as a result of having their DNA swabbed by police officers.
The settlement, announced Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties, stems from a Nov. 2011 incident inside the family's southeast San Diego home.
Officers showed up looking for a parolee who wasn’t home. Following their search, the officers took DNA swabs from five family members without a warrant.
“They were directed to do so. They did not consent. They did not agree. The police said ‘if you don’t do it, we’ll take you downtown,’” said local ACLU Legal Director David Loy.
Without a warrant, Loy claims the officers violated the fourth amendment of the constitution.
“I’m talking about police out in the neighborhood, for people who are not arrested, not charged. The police should not be doing this without a warrant," Loy said.
Nationwide, the ACLU is fighting several legal battles against law enforcement collection of DNA once suspects are arrested, but this case didn’t make it past the San Diego City Attorney’s Office.
“In cooperation with the San Diego ACLU, we settled a case before a complaint was filed for $35,000 including attorneys fees for five plaintiffs” said City Attorney Communications Director Gina Coburn.
DNA matches from law enforcement databases have led to countless arrests of killers, rapists and suspects in recent years, making the issue an important one for crime fighters. But, the ACLU considers DNA a fundamental privacy right, setting up the fight for a middle ground.
This round goes to the ACLU.
“I think the settlement appropriately sends a message, I think, and I expect police will follow the law," Loy said.
“The police were involved with discussions with ACLU. The procedures that should have been followed have been reaffirmed,” Coburn added.
As part of the settlement, the city denied liability, but it is required to destroy all five of the DNA samples from all law enforcement databases.