San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin dropped charges against a woman after learning that police identified her as a suspect in the case using DNA evidence from an investigation into her sexual assault years ago, officials said Tuesday.
The news comes a day after Boudin accused police of using DNA evidence from a sexual assault survivor’s rape kit to arrest her in connection with an unrelated felony property crime. Boudin said the arrest was the result of police routinely searching a database containing DNA evidence from rape kits for matches to evidence from unrelated cases.
The alleged practice, which alarmed criminal justice experts and advocates for sexual assault survivors, raises legal and ethical issues for Boudin and his office. The progressive prosecutor—who has gone to war with Police Chief Bill Scott in recent weeks—worried that the practice would dissuade survivors from reporting rapes, and said it could compromise prosecutions by violating Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful searches and seizures.
A spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the dismissal of charges Tuesday.
Chief Scott has not confirmed that his department identified the suspect using DNA evidence from a rape kit, but said Monday he was committed to ending the practice if the allegations are true. In a statement, the chief also raised the possibility that the “suspect in this case may have been identified through a DNA hit in a non-victim DNA database.”
However, a report reviewed by The Standard shows that police matched a DNA sample from a recent property crime investigation to an oral swab taken as part of a sexual assault examination kit in 2016. The match was detected during a “routine search” of an internal database maintained by the department’s Crime Lab.
Scott said the police department will review its DNA collection practices and policies, as well as the particular case in question, in response to the allegations.
The revelations could also prompt legislative changes at the local and state levels.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen said she would introduce a policy to prohibit police from using rape kit DNA for any reason other than to investigate sex crimes, while state Sen. Scott Wiener, of San Francisco, said he was considering addressing the issue through state legislation.
Michael Barba can be reached at [email protected]