Attorney Bradley Hawley

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How can DNA sites lead to arrests?

On Behalf of | Oct 2, 2019 | Criminal Defense |

You may have heard the story a while back about law enforcement caught a serial killer using DNA testing sites. It made national news and showed on local Alabama stations. These sites began popping up as a way for people to learn more about their genealogy. Now, these sites offer a range of services, including genetics and allergy information. They also provide law enforcement a great way to catch criminals through DNA. You may wonder how this is done.

According to The Atlantic, officers submitted the DNA of the murderer in hopes of finding relatives, which is exactly what happened and what then helped them find the killer. Law enforcement did not look at other people’s results or do anything that would fall outside of the site’s rules. They simple submitted a sample to look for close relatives, just as any other person would do, except it was not their own sample.

Of course, this sparked privacy concerns and people were worried about the use of their DNA when submitting to such sites. Most sites downplay the idea that law enforcement is using their services to catch criminals, but it is happening a lot more often. One site even has taken a stance to help law enforcement, but it did so in secret before finally letting customers know.

In general, people are okay with this use of information, but they do want to be aware it is happening. In any case, these companies are not handing your DNA to law enforcement. Law enforcement must still go through the process by providing DNA to begin with to find genetic matches. This information is for education and is not legal advice.