Constitutional Law

Rape victim sues after police use her sexual-assault DNA to arrest her in unrelated crime

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Print.

gavel and lawsuit words

Image from Shutterstock.

A rape victim who was arrested based on DNA evidence that she provided to police has filed a lawsuit against the city and county of San Francisco and police officials.

The woman, identified only as Jane Doe in the Sept. 12 federal lawsuit, alleges that the use of her DNA amounted to an unlawful search and seizure.

She is represented by Adante Pointer of Pointer & Buelna, according to a Sept. 12 press release.

The woman provided a DNA sample to the San Francisco Police Department in 2016 for the investigation into her sexual assault, according to the lawsuit. Police kept her DNA in a database for more than six years that was used by police in unrelated criminal investigations.

In December 2021, the city and county of San Francisco used a match between crime scene evidence and the rape victim’s DNA to arrest the woman on charges of burglary, the suit says.

“While all charges stemming from this incident against plaintiff Doe were eventually dropped, the appalling, exploitative and unconstitutional nature of defendants’ practice cannot be ignored,” the lawsuit says.

The suit alleges that the unconstitutional search violated Section 1983 of the federal civil rights statute; was based on an unconstitutional custom or policy; was a negligent violation of the duty of due care; and violated California’s Bane Act, which bans interference with constitutional rights by force or threat of violence.

The Associated Press, the Washington Post and the New York Times are among the publications with coverage of the lawsuit.

Federal law bars the use of crime victim DNA in the national Combined DNA Index System, according to the AP. A bill awaiting Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature would ban DNA from rape victims from being used to link them to unrelated crimes.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said his department no longer uses rape kit DNA in investigations of other crimes, according to the AP.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.