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Name: People v. Laird
Case #: D072642
Court: CA Supreme Court
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 08/30/2018

Proposition 64 does not require a defendant’s DNA to be expunged from the state’s database where defendant was initially charged with a felony. Laird was arrested for felony marijuana charges in May 2014, at which time he provided his DNA by buccal swab. He pleaded guilty to one felony count for possessing not more than eight ounces of concentrated cannabis (Health & Saf. Code, § 11357, subd. (a)). While on probation, Laird filed a petition for reduction of his offense to a misdemeanor pursuant to Proposition 47, and the court granted the petition. In March 2017, Laird filed a petition asking the court to set aside the misdemeanor conviction and to designate it as an infraction under Proposition 64, which the court did. Laird then moved to have his DNA expunged from the state’s database, which the court denied. He appealed. Held: Affirmed. In November 2016, voters approved Proposition 64, which reduced penalties through redesignation of marijuana felonies to misdemeanors or infractions. Like Proposition 64, Proposition 47 reduced certain drug and theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors for all purposes. The language of redesignation in Propositions 47 and 64 is nearly identical. “Identical language appearing in separate statutory provisions should receive the same interpretation when the statutes cover the same or analogous subject matter.” (People v. Cornett (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1261, 1269.) Under Proposition 47, redesignation does not alter the original status of the charge as a felony, so the triggering event for the obligation to provide a DNA sample is unaffected by the later change in offense. (In re C.H. (2016) 2 Cal.App.4th 1139, 1147.) Here, the original felony guilty plea was a proper basis for collecting a DNA sample. Because DNA collection occurs at the time of the felony arrest and is administrative rather than punitive, the redesignation to an infraction for all purposes under Proposition 64 does not relate back to the initial charge for purposes of DNA expungement. In addition, the retention of Laird’s DNA sample did not violate his constitutional right to equal protection or privacy, given the government’s legitimate interest in maintaining an expansive DNA database related to identification and crime solving.