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Online genetics testing may become evidence against you

by | Dec 18, 2018 | Firm News

This holiday, you may receive a unique gift if someone gives you a genetic testing kit from one of the companies offering this service. This kit may contain a small vial into which you put your saliva and send it off for analysis. After a while, you receive your results that may tell you everything from what percentage Native American blood you have to your risk of breast cancer. You can go one step further and upload your results to GEDmatch to find other people who share your DNA.

The problem is that while GEDmatch offers this free service, it also encourages law enforcement to send DNA samples they find at crime scenes so GEDmatch can connect the samples with people who share similar DNA. You may be among the many who fear this violates your civil rights.

How it works

Unlike other genetic testing sites, GEDmatch does not require a clean saliva sample from a suspect to analyze the DNA makeup. As long as police have a sufficient genetic sequence of an unknown offender, they can submit their raw data to GEDmatch to obtain a list of potential suspects. If your information is in the system, police can obtain it through the DNA matching company without requiring your permission or a warrant.

Some proponents of this new crime fighting tool point to cold cases investigators have already solved using genetic matching. You may be concerned about the fact that the debate continues over whether the information obtained from these sites violates your right to privacy or whether it is even reliable and accurate. In fact, if you have a relative in the GEDmatch database who has similar DNA structure to yours, that relative may end up implicated in a crime where police found your DNA.

DNA itself is not foolproof

Just because police claim to have found your DNA at the site of a crime does not mean you committed that crime. DNA evidence is easily contaminated, and people leave behind their DNA whenever they enter or leave a room.

Until laws catch up with this new technology available for public use, you would be wise to take every available precaution to protect your rights and challenge any evidence collected through online genetics matching. Seeking the advice and counsel of an experienced California defense attorney is advisable, especially if that legal professional has a history of success in complex criminal matters.