Two new laws restrict police use of DNA search method

In other cases, detectives may surreptitiously collect DNA from a relative of a suspect by testing an object that the relative discarded in the trash.

The new Maryland law states that when police officers test the DNA of “third parties,” that is, people other than the suspect, they must first obtain written consent, unless a judge approves the deceptive collection.

Investigators cannot use the genetic information collected, either from the suspect or from third parties, to learn about a person’s psychological traits or predisposition to disease. At the end of the research, all the genetic and genealogical records that were created for it should be removed from the databases.

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

Mr. Holes said that this part of the law could have tragic consequences. For older cases, he noted, the DNA evidence is often highly degraded and fragile, with each DNA test consuming part of that precious sample. “In essence, the statute could potentially have me annulled my case,” he said. And given the speed at which DNA technology evolves, he added, it is unwise for a law to require the use of any particular type of test.

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

These searches are “the equivalent of 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 that focuses primarily in helping adoptees and others to find their biological relatives. “I don’t think people fully appreciate how much is in their genetic data.”

The entry Two new laws restricting the police use of the DNA search method was first published in Es de Latino News ..

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