Two New Laws Restrict Police Use of DNA Search Method

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In other cases, detectives may secretly collect DNA from a suspect’s relative by checking an object that the relative has thrown into the trash can.

A new Maryland law states that when police check the DNA of “third parties” – people who are not suspects – they must first obtain written consent, unless the judge approves the collection of false information.

Investigators cannot use any genetic information obtained from a suspect or from third parties to learn about a person’s psychological characteristics or their predisposition to diseases. At the end of the investigation, all genetic and genealogical records that were created for him must be removed from the databases.

And perhaps most importantly, Maryland researchers interested in genetic genealogy should first try their luck with a government DNA database called Codis, which uses far fewer genetic markers in its profiles.

Mr. Halls said this part of the law could have tragic consequences. He noted that for older cases, DNA evidence is often highly degraded and fragile, and each DNA test consumes a portion of this precious sample. “Basically, the statute could potentially force me to drop my case,” he said. And given the speed at which DNA technology is advancing, he added, it would be unwise for the law to mandate the use of any particular type of test.

But other experts called this provision extremely important, because the potential breach of privacy is much more serious for genetic genealogy, which gives law enforcement agencies access to hundreds of thousands of genetic markers, than for Codis, which uses only about two dozen markers.

These searches “are equivalent to the government going through all of your medical records and all of your family records just to identify you,” said Leah Larkin, a genetic genealogist who runs a consulting business in the San Francisco Bay Area. mainly about helping adopted children and other people in search of their biological relatives. “I don’t think people fully understand how much data is in your genetic data.”

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