SF DA Drops Charges Against Woman Whose Victim’s Rape Kit was Used

The San Francisco Police Department is under scrutiny after storing rape victims’ DNA kits for years to cross-reference them against other crimes. 

Rape kits are DNA testing kits that collect DNA evidence of alleged rapists in order to identify them. The victim is swabbed across their entire body to detect foreign DNA. 

But the San Francisco Police Department was not just keeping the DNA of accused assailants, they were keeping the DNA samples of the victims of rape. For years, victims’ DNA has been stored in order to test them against a database of other crimes. 

This all came to light last week when a woman was charged with a property crime using her DNA collected from a 2016 rape kit when she was a victim of rape. 

Yesterday, San Francisco’s district attorney dropped the charges against the woman, citing that the practice of using her rape kit DNA to link her to a property crime could violate her and other victims’ constitutional rights. 

District attorney Chesa Boudin said that his office learned that the police were using these DNA samples from victims to identify suspects, and is now calling for new legislation to ban the practice. Boudin said that the practice treats victims like evidence, not human beings and that it is both legally and ethically wrong. 

The fourth amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizures by the government. In the state of California, there is a state bill, California’s Victims’ Bill of Rights, which specifically exists to provide survivors with privacy and dignity. 

The San Francisco Police are saying that DNA collection is legal under forensic standards. But the department’s chief acknowledged that it can disincentivize people from coming forward, and ordered a review of the policy.

Experts in rape and violence against women have said it’s yet another reason for women to not trust the justice system in seeking justice for rape and sexual assault. 

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