Photo: Getty
  /  09.13.2022

A San Francisco woman has filed a lawsuit against the city after DNA collected from her sexual assault was used to implicate her in an unrelated crime.

According to The New York Times, the DNA of a Black woman, identified only as “Jane Doe” in the lawsuit filed in federal court on Monday (Sept. 12), was provided to police in 2016 during an investigation into her sexual assault. Her attorney, Adante Pointer, said in a statement that Doe’s DNA samples were used five years later to tie her to a retail theft charge. 

“The exchange is you’re going to use this DNA for a specific purpose, which is to prosecute the person who violated me,” Pointer said. “And instead, the police turned into the violators here.” Pointer alleged that Doe’s DNA was placed into a database used to identify people as suspects in other crimes without her knowledge or consent. He also said this is a repeated practice that the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) has done to other sexual assault victims.

According to the lawsuit, Doe alleges that the city and SFPD officials violated her Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizures by using her DNA to obtain an arrest warrant. In addition, she is seeking an unspecified amount of damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.

Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s former district attorney, dropped the theft charges in February against the woman. But, per Boudin, the city has been storing DNA from victims of sexual assault and matching it to unrelated crimes since at least 2016. Boudin also questioned whether it was legal to keep the DNA of sexual assault survivors for this purpose.

“We have very grave concerns about the legality of the practice,” Mr. Boudin stated. However, Doe’s attorney said the practice would likely have continued in San Francisco if Boudin hadn’t dropped the case against Jane Doe.

The San Francisco Police Department provided no comment on the lawsuit.

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