While the allure of exploring one’s family tree and lineage has meant big business for some companies, two major that research family lineage (for a fee) claim that over the last two years, they have received law enforcement demands for genetic information stored in their DNA databases. Ancestry.com and their competitor 23andme, hold the genetic information of hundreds of thousands of people. They have received five requests from law enforcement agencies for the DNA of six people.
Ancestry.com did turn over one person’s data for an investigation into the murder and rape of an 18-year-old woman in Idaho Falls, Idaho. 23andme has received four other court orders but have been successful in persuading investigators to withdraw the requests.
Privacy advocates and experts are concerned that genetic information turned over for medical, family history research or other highly personal reasons will be misused by investigators, and that this new trend could start a slippery slope.
How is DNA Evidence Used?
In the forensics word, investigators will compare DNA found at the crime scene or on the victim them with the sample(s) they have in their government databases. However, these databases, while holding information of millions of people, only hold genetic info for already convicted offenders and arrestees. When law enforcement requests information from companies like Ancestry.com, they will analyze 13 areas within the DNA sample and compare it with the 13 areas within the DNA found at the crime scene.
Legal experts predict that a warrant, like in the case of wiretapping, will be necessary because this is a huge invasion of privacy. This means there needs to be a compelling public safety issue.
DNA Evidence as Circumstantial Evidence
Circumstantial evidence, also known as indirect evidence, is evidence that does not directly prove that the defendant is guilty of the charged crime. Rather, it is evidence that directly proves a key fact, from which a person could then reasonably conclude that the defendant is guilty. In most cases, DNA evidence will be considered circumstantial evidence.
The California Rules of Evidence allow circumstantial evidence such as DNA evidence to be admissible in court. It gets the same weight as direct evidence. However, in order for a jury to convict someone using circumstantial evidence, they must find him/her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
San Diego Criminal Defense and Evidence Attorney
At The Law Offices of David M. Boertje, we know the California Rules of Evidence very well, and are prepared to defend your constitutional rights and freedom at trial. Often times, circumstantial evidence is not reliable. DNA evidence for example, can only prove you were at the scene of the crime, not the perpetrator of the crime itself. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in which there is DNA evidence against you, contact attorney David Boertje today.