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A Look at Familial DNA Testing

August 24, 2017, on Criminal Investigations |

The New York State Commission on Forensic Science has voted 9-2 to approve a new crime-fighting tool: the use of familial DNA.  Pix 11 reported on the approval, which was celebrated by the parents of a murder victim who described the day as a good one.  The father of the victim told Pix 11 that “this is probably the biggest tool that New York State has gotten, New York State law enforcement has gotten since fingerprints.”

However, not everyone is in favor of permitting familial DNA to be used, with opponents of the technique arguing that “familial searches are suspicionless, generalized, and arbitrary.”  Innocent people could be caught up in familial DNA searches, among other problems including the fact that people who are identified by the familial search happen to be in the database only because their relatives were convicted of a crime, while those without criminal relatives retain their rights to keep their genetic code private.

Every defendant has certain constitutional rights, and those who are accused of an offense in connection with familial DNA or otherwise should reach out to Albany sex crime lawyers for help making sure their rights were respected and that evidence used against them was collected in accordance with constitutional protections.

New York Approves the Use of Familial DNA

When DNA is found at a crime scene, law enforcement personnel who are investigating the crime test the DNA samples to see if they match the state's DNA database. The DNA database does not contain the DNA information of everyone in the state, but instead only contains DNA that was previously collected for inclusion in the database. Often, the DNA came from people who were arrested and/or convicted of previous offenses.

Sometimes there is no match the state's DNA database. When this happens, the new rules allow for familiar DNA searches. This means the search is expanded to see if the DNA which was discovered at the crime scene has a familial connection to anyone whose DNA is in the database. If a familial connection is found, law enforcement officers who are investigating the case can then conduct an investigation into relatives to help them narrow down who may have committed a crime.

There are numerous problems with this, even though obviously it makes the work of law enforcement officers easier. Most obviously, many innocent people could end up becoming caught up in an investigation simply because they are related to offenders whose DNA was found at a crime scene and/or whose DNA was in the state's DNA database.

Despite the many arguments against the use of familial DNA, New York will now be pushing forward to allow this type of DNA searching. Albany sex crime lawyers should be consulted by any defendant who has come under investigation or who has been accused of wrongdoing due to DNA evidence. We can help you to make sure your rights were respected and can also assist you in defending yourself even if there is a DNA match to evidence at the crime scene.  Contact us now to learn more about how help we can offer.

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