Thursday, March 17, 2011

The cops got DNA from your brother, but are you the suspect ?

The Minnesota House of Representatives is moving forward in a major expansion on the use of DNA with a bill hearing today.  The bill calls for no public input of people, defense attorneys, and civil libertarians in developing the protocols and procedures that are a part of the familial DNA bill.

A main concept of familial DNA investigation is that siblings and closely related people share more genetic material than people that are not related. The action begins by bringing forth a list of possible relatives of the owner of the DNA picked up at a crime scene by executing a DNA search to look for partial matches between the crime scene profile and the offender profile in the DNA data bank at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.  This would lead to place suspicions on siblings, fathers, sons, and family members who are related to the offender based on a partial match.

In the bill, the Department of Public Safety is directed to develop the rules, but they are exempted from State Statute Chapter 14.  What does that mean?  It means several things, one, the rules will not be part of the process which allows input from the public and to be weighed by a neutral party if necessary.  Secondly, it allows law enforcement to make the rules and protocols for themselves.

The rules would outline as one of its objective how the name would be released by Public Safety to the police agency who wants it so then they could check out the family relations.  The rules may also have additional safeguards and process to guide law enforcement with force of law.

Law enforcement is arguing that they should be allowed to use the new technique of familial DNA search to solve crime.  I agree, but I believe it should not be at the expense of the constitutional right to search and seizure, due process, presumption of innocence, and privacy.

The use of familial DNA and the discussion of it is "complex" per Representative Cornish, sponsor of the bill.  I agree with Mr. Cornish the issue is complex.  If the bill passes as is I contend there is no accountability and it compromises our civil liberties.               

See previous post on this issue.  Today's post was revised to state there was a public hearing on the bill today and to clarify the first paragraph.                       

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