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Name: In re C.B.
Case #: S237762
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 08/30/2018

Juveniles who had to submit their DNA after suffering felony adjudications may not have their DNA profiles expunged after their offenses were reduced to misdemeanors under Proposition 47. In two separate cases, juveniles C.B. and C.H. were declared wards of the court based on conduct that was felonious when committed. This finding required them to submit their DNA to the State Department of Justice (DOJ) databank. They sought to expunge this material after their offenses were reduced to misdemeanors under Proposition 47. Their motions were denied and the rulings were affirmed on appeal. The California Supreme Court granted review in both cases and consolidated the cases for argument and opinion. Held: Affirmed. The DOJ maintains a databank of DNA samples collected from certain adult and juvenile offenders. Juveniles who have been declared wards based on felony conduct must submit samples, but are not required to do so for most misdemeanor offenses. There is a procedure to seek expungement of the material (Pen. Code, § 299), but the DNA Act, as modified by Proposition 69, does not permit expungement of DNA merely because the felony was later reduced to a misdemeanor. Proposition 47, which reduced certain theft- and drug-related felonies to misdemeanors “for all purposes” does not change this rule. Expungement is only required where petitioner shows one of the following: (1) charges were not filed or were dismissed; (2) he was acquitted; (3) the conviction was reversed and the case dismissed; or (4) he was factually innocent. Although C.B. and C.H. no longer stand adjudicated of felonies, they cannot meet these additional requirements for expungement.

Reading the statutory scheme to allow retention of a juvenile’s DNA profile after his felony adjudication was reduced to a misdemeanor does not violate equal protection under the state and federal Constitutions. C.H. argued that offenders who commit future acts reclassified as misdemeanors by Proposition 47 and those who committed the same acts before the initiative’s passage must be treated the same with respect to inclusion of DNA samples in the state’s databank. Assuming these two groups are similarly situated for purposes of an equal protection analysis, the distinction drawn between them with respect to providing and retaining DNA samples does not implicate a fundamental right or suspect classification. Thus, the state need only have a rational basis for the distinction. The voters could rationally differentiate between the two groups based on cost considerations, i.e., that less serious offenses do not warrant the cost of collecting DNA, but that DNA already collected should be retained versus expending resources to expunge it.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: