News 03.24.11

Virginia Enacts Familial DNA Testing Law

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced earlier this week that the Virginia Department of Forensic Science will now use using familial DNA testing in criminal investigations.

Whereas traditional DNA testing compares crime scene evidence to the state’s DNA database for direct hits, familial DNA testing includes hits for close genetic matches to crime scene samples, such as family members. The test is designated for use in cold or unsolved violent crimes cases in which all other investigative methods have been exhausted.

In a public statement, McDonnell says that law enforcement should be able to use familial DNA tests as

another means of investigation, albeit with care

:

“Familial DNA searching, which must be used cautiously and sparingly, provides another important tool to assist law enforcement in some of their most difficult and heinous cases where the safety of the public remains a concern.”

However, opponents have voiced concern over this issue. Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia Kent Willis

told local news station CBS 6

:

“It’s guilty by genetic association. It creates suspects out of people solely because they’re related to someone who may have committed the crime. You can be discriminated in Virginia because you’re a suspect in a crime. You can lose you’re job because you’re a suspect.”

Virginia becomes the third state to adopt familial DNA testing after California and Colorado.

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