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DNA Evidence From Genealogy Databases: Is it Ethical to Use it in Criminal Investigations?

Friday Jul 27th, on Criminal Investigations |

DNA evidence is some of the most powerful evidence that is used in criminal proceedings. An Albany felony attorney can help defendants who are being accused of wrongdoing and whose DNA is being presented as part of the evidence.

An attorney can try to help you disprove or cast doubt on DNA evidence, but many jury members have strong trust in DNA because of misconceptions created in large part by TV law shows.  An attorney can also provide help in trying to get DNA evidence suppressed, which would stop it from being presentable as evidence in court.

DNA evidence could be suppressed if a defendant's rights were violated in collecting and testing his DNA. Because genealogy databases have become so popular and so common, open questions are now being raised about the ethics of using DNA from genealogy databases in order to solve crimes and potentially prosecute those who are found to have their DNA at a crime scene. 

Is it Ethical?

Recently, Reuters addressed some of the growing controversy regarding whether police should be able to make use of information in genealogy databases to match that information with DNA at crime scenes.

DNA information is provided to genealogy sites privately by individuals who are under no legal obligation to provide it.  However, police may be able to access the information and can take legal action because of it.

One example is a situation where a 72-year-old man was arrested in April. The older man was suspected to be the Golden State Killer, a serial rapist and a serial murderer who killed more than 12 people; committed more than 50 rapes; and committed more than 100 burglaries across California between 1974 and 1986.

While DNA matching is a very common technique used to identify defendants who may have been responsible for a crime occurring, most of the time DNA that is used for investigations comes from DNA databases that were specifically designed to be used for criminal justice purposes.

When people submit their data to a genealogy database, however, this is done for entertainment purposes and some argue that genealogy databases cannot and should not be used to investigate crimes because those providing their DNA have not given permission for other uses and may not be aware of the fact that police could potentially access the database.

Another problem is that when people submit their own DNA to a genealogy database, they are personally taking a risk – but their actions could affect everyone in the family. When people submit their DNA to one of these sites, they don't stop to think that this could potentially result in a family member having their DNA access without permission and ending up with this DNA being used against them in criminal cases.

If you are involved in a criminal proceeding and there are issues with the use of DNA evidence, you should reach out to an Albany felony attorney to get help protecting your interests and ensuring your DNA is not used in violation of your Constitutional rights.

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