Court Explores Constitutionality Of DNA Sampling On Anyone Arrested On Felony Charges

from the is-that-legal? dept

Last month, we discussed the legality of so-called familial searches on gov't DNA databases, especially with states expanding their DNA collection practices. Specifically, familial searches involve noting similarities in DNA found at a crime scene to those in the database. However, without an exact match, police then use the results to look at relatives of whoever was in the database. Where it gets tricky is that many states, such as California, now take DNA from anyone accused of a felony, and keep that DNA -- even if they're never convicted.

Two recent stories update this discussion in interesting ways. The first highlights how a recently arrested serial killer was caught using just such a familial search, after the guy's son was arrested on a totally unrelated matter. While it's unquestionably a good thing that a serial killer has been arrested, it still raises questions about the legality of the method by which he was caught. His own DNA was never put into the database (though I'm sure it's there now), but it effectively got there because of his son.

Separately, a lawsuit is making its way through the courts exploring whether or not California's policy of storing the DNA on anyone accused of a felony is legal, and judges appear to be mixed on the matter right now, with some comparing it to taking fingerprints, but others questioning why the data should be stored if the person was never convicted of a crime. As the article notes, this is an issue that will almost certainly reach the Supreme Court eventually.

Filed Under: dna, familial searches, partial match, privacy

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  1. identicon
    BBT, 15 Jul 2010 @ 8:58am

    "While it's unquestionably a good thing that a serial killer has been arrested"

    an [i]alleged[/i] serial killer has been arrested, with the only known evidence against him so far being DNA evidence of questionable trustworthiness.

    If he gets convicted by a competent jury, perhaps then you can call it "unquestionably a good thing". Until that day, though, he's innocent until proven guilty.

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