The Myth of Arrestee DNA Expungement

10 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2015 Last revised: 19 Dec 2015

Elizabeth E. Joh

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Date Written: August 7, 2015

Abstract

Building on a trend that began with collecting DNA from convicted offenders, most states and the federal government now collect DNA from felony arrestees. The national DNA database now contains information on more than 2 million arrestees. While some of these arrests will result in guilty pleas or convictions, a substantial number will not. In fact, in many cases arrests lead to dismissed criminal charges or no charges at all. Should these arrestees forfeit their genetic information nevertheless? Every jurisdiction that collects arrestee DNA permits eligible arrestees to seek the expungement of their genetic profiles. While formal expungement is the law, it turns out that arrestee DNA expungement is largely a myth. In most states that collect arrestee DNA, the initial decision by the police to arrest that person turns out in most cases to lead to the permanent collection and retention of the arrestee’s genetic information, regardless of whether charges are dismissed or never brought at all. This essay is the first to provide preliminary data on actual arrestee DNA expungement, and argues for quick, efficient, and state-initiated expungement procedures.

Keywords: DNA, surveillance, information, expungement, criminal justice, database, privacy, genetic, police, criminal records

Suggested Citation

Joh, Elizabeth E., The Myth of Arrestee DNA Expungement (August 7, 2015). 164 Univ. Penn. L. Rev. Online 51 (2015); UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 447. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2641079

Elizabeth E. Joh (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

400 Mrak Hall Drive
Davis, CA 95616-5201
United States

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