San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced on Wednesday that his office dismissed charges against a woman who was linked to a recent property crime allegation through DNA collected during a rape kit.
Officials told the San Francisco Chronicle that the case was like “fruit of the poisonous tree,” meaning the “evidence that led to the arrest was gathered in a way that violated the defendant’s rights.”
Rachel Marshall, a spokesperson for Boudin, slammed the charges as “illegal” to NPR on Thursday and said “we did not know this was happening” until prosecutors began reviewing documents about the investigation that included her arrest.
Marshall told the outlet that prosecutors had figured out that the police department was using databases that included assault victim’s DNA to attempt to identify crime suspects and that the DA’s office was actively working on ending it for good.
The woman in question had her DNA collected in 2016 and was apparently connected to a burglary that occurred late last year as part of “a routine search” of the crime lab’s database. Kate Chatfield, Boudin’s chief of staff, said the practice could date all the way back to 2015 when the area’s systems were retooled. Chatfield told The New York Times: “This is a standard operating procedure in the field. So we don’t think that this practice is necessarily limited to San Francisco.”
It’s not immediately clear how many people have been arrested or convicted because of this type of DNA linking.
Since his initial announcement on Monday, Boudin has called for legislation that would outlaw the practice, and San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said he is committed to ending the practice by his department. “This practice treats victims like evidence, not human beings. This is legally and ethically wrong,” Boudin said at the Monday press conference.