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In the Future, DNA Samples May Be Required For All Crimes

The justice system has many tools to convict criminals, but only one has seen great advances over the past decade and identifies criminals with "incredible accuracy," according to The United States Department of Justice. Although the use of DNA samples is clearly a valuable tool, particularly in exonerating the falsely accused, using it for minor criminal infractions presents questions of privacy violations.

How DNA Samples are Used

Generally, these samples can be used in two ways:

  • Compare crime scene evidence with specific suspect
  • Enter crime scene evidence into DNA database to find perpetrator

The DNA database was established in the 1980s by the federal government. It provides for national, state and local storage and exchange. Investigation potential is growing with The Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) as states continue to pass laws requiring offenders of certain crimes to provide DNA Samples.

Privacy Right Violations

CODIS is currently overwhelmed by backlogs, the labs are ill-equipped to handle the increasing number of samples and professionals working these labs need additional training to optimally use the technology. Working in such conditions will lead to mistakes, and a mistake involving such unique personal information is a privacy violation.

Courts have held the collection of DNA is a search, and thus must be reasonable. Virginia's state court ruled it reasonable for police officers to obtain a DNA sample incident to the arrest of an alleged rapist. The court stated it was not in violation of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Virginia extends the reasonableness view to require samples for convicted felons, but does not currently extend to misdemeanors although it may in the future. Many states have already made this extension, including Illinois, New York and Wisconsin.

Exoneration of the Falsely Accused

This extension is defended with the many successful stories of DNA samples solving crimes throughout the country. Examples include the arrest of a New York man with over 22 sexual assaults and robberies to a murdering rapist spanning both Pennsylvania and Colorado.

Although there are benefits to the use of DNA identification, privacy issues remain. As a result, if you or a loved one are accused of a misdemeanor and are asked to provide a DNA sample, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to ensure all your rights are protected.

Source: "Taking DNA From All Criminals Should Be Standard Procedure," New York Times, 1/23/12

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