Note – Familial DNA Testing, House Bill 3361, and the Need for Federal Oversight

Dane C. Barca

Volume 64, Issue 2, 499-526

Recent developments in DNA testing have enabled forensic scientists to make DNA matches from crime scene samples to family members of criminals in the national DNA database. It is now possible to take a DNA sample from a crime scene, match that sample to a relative of the perpetrator within a DNA database, and locate the criminal based on this familial association. These “partial-match” searches have facilitated the apprehension of criminals that would have previously escaped detection, but these techniques also raise numerous concerns about privacy, accuracy, and the inequalities of racial representation within the national DNA database. Moreover, there exists no national consensus on the type or degree of offense for which this technology might be used.Representative Adam Schiff of Los Angeles County recently proposed legislation that would nationalize the presently state-based systems for partial-match searches. While this legislation holds the promise to expand the public awareness and debate around an existent forensic technique, the legislation must be implemented with an eye toward the increasing critical discourse surrounding the use of partial-match searches already in practice. This Note details the science behind the technique, examples in which the technique has been implemented, and the critical concerns raised by the use of this emergent forensic science. This Note analyzes Schiff’s proposed legislation in light of the critical concerns raised by legal commentators and makes practical suggestions for the implementation of partial-match DNA searches on a national scale.

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