Orange County. It has enough strip malls to name one after every visitor to Disneyland this year, but apparently that isn’t enough to discourage trespassing. The L.A. Times reports that the buffer zone between Los Angeles and irreversible despair has a new “informal” petty-crime-fightin’ policy, now with extra Big Brother flavor!
People arrested for petty crimes in the County of Orange are being given the option of having the charges dismissed if they’ll let the district attorney stick a cotton swab in their mouth (at least, we hope that’s how they do it). Give a DNA sample for the county’s ever-expanding database and they’ll drop charges of petty theft, trespassing or having a single joint in your pocket that you swear you’re just holding for a friend and you forgot it was even there, seriously, dude.
To the rescue: That lefty law school dean guy, right? Right?
Fortunately, newly entangled in the smog-soaked skirts of the Orange Curtain is a leading crusader for civil liberties, justice, equality and granola for all: Erwin Chemerinsky, newly minted dean of the newly minted Irvine law school. The Times serves up an understated critique of the DA’s Faustian bargain:
"(It) troubles me because I do not think that we yet have adequate safeguards to protect privacy," Chemerinsky said.
Which begs the question, how can you safeguard privacy for a policy designed specifically to pressure you into surrendering it at the most fundamental level? Without even being convicted of, say, loitering with intent to not move along, you’re asked to cough up (and how often do you get to use that expression literally?) a sample of your most personal identifying information.
The program came to light because the county now wants to be able to add a $75 fee to have your DNA processed. Insult, meet financial injury. Other fun facts from the Times piece:
Critics call such local databases "rogues" because they are not subject to state and federal guidelines designed to prevent DNA profiles from being misused. The Orange County database is even more unusual because it is not run by an accredited crime lab.
So there you have it. Next time you’re heading toward the gridlock on the glorious Garden Grove Freeway, think twice before you cross the county line.
— Brian McDonough