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NY Considers Wider DNA Net to Help Solve Hard Cases

Friday Apr 21st, on Criminal Investigations |

DNA has been used to help police track down individuals who allegedly violated the law. When crimes are committed, the perpetrator often leaves skin, blood, or other genetic material at the crime scene that police can use to find the perpetrator's DNA. A large database of ex-offenders is then searched in order to find out if the DNA from the crime scene matches anyone in the database.

In some cases, an exact match comes up and police will then investigate the person whose DNA was found to match the genetic material left at the crime scene. Albany criminal defense attorneys can represent that individual, and it will be vitally important for anyone whose DNA is found at a crime scene to get legal help as soon as possible since that DNA match is a powerful piece of evidence.

Sometimes, however, there is no DNA match. When this occurs, the police won't be able to just find the potential offender through a database search. To make the job of law enforcement easier, there is currently a proposal to cast a wider net when conducting a DNA search, according to reports that New York authorities are considering lowering the standard for searching for DNA matches to not only turn up exact matches but also to find people with a genetic link. While this could put police in contact with someone who knows the perpetrator, there are also problems with this approach.

A Wider DNA Net Could Result in Innocent People Being Investigated

Casting a wider DNA net to find non-exact DNA matches would essentially allow the police to do a familial search. When trying to find a person who may have left DNA at the crime scene, the wider DNA search could turn up a parent, sibling, brother or child of that person.  The idea is the police could then use this information to more easily track down the person whose DNA was actually discovered.

The problem is, the innocent person whose DNA came up as a partial match now has to cope with an intrusive police investigation.  Furthermore, many civil libertarians and critics of casting a wide DNA net indicate that familial DNA searches unfairly victimize family members of ex-convicts who haven't done anything suspicious at all.  Despite these concerns, however, a New York panel is considering a proposal to widen the DNA dragnet.

Many states already allow familial DNA searching, although both Maryland and Washington, D.C. outlawed these types of searches decades ago due to the civil liberties concerns. A DA who supports expanded searching is a member of the panel that will consider the proposal in New York. There is a strong likelihood that the proposal will lead to wider searches, which means people need to know what their legal rights are in case they become a target of a police investigation.

If you are questioned by police about DNA found at a crime scene, regardless of whether police claim that DNA matches your genetic markers or is a match to the genetics of your family member, you should be represented by an attorney with The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC who can help you to avoid doing or saying anything that could potentially incriminate you or a loved one.  To find out more about the ways in which an attorney can help to protect your rights when police are questioning you, give us a call today.

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