Department of Justice Made Rules About Forensic Genetic Genealogy

The United States Department of Justice announced an interim policy on forensic genetic genealogy (FGG). It is an emerging investigative technique that will combine technological advancements in DNA analysis and searching with traditional genealogy research. The rules go into effect on November 1, 2019.

Forensic genetic genealogy is sometimes used by police when they are trying to track down the perpetrator of a cold case. For example, police used DNA to determine who the Golden State Killer was.

The Department of Justice states that the new rules were designed to balance the Department’s commitment to solving violent crimes and protecting public safety against equally important public interests – such as preserving the privacy and civil liberties of all citizens.

The new rules establish that a DNA sample found at the scene of a violent crime must first be compared against samples in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). The result could generate a lead for law enforcement.

If CODIS does not generate a lead, the next step is to use forensic genetic genealogy. The Department of Justice points out that this requires a type of DNA testing that the Department’s laboratories do not perform, so the sample has to be outsourced to a vender laboratory. In short, the vender laboratory will do a comprehensive analysis of the sample, which results in a genetic profile.

That genetic profile is then entered into one of the more publicly-available genetic genealogy services and compared by automation against the genetic profiles of individuals who have voluntarily submitted their own samples. A match could potentially be found. Or, it might provide a lead.

The point appears to be that the Department of Justice wants police to exhaust all other resources before resulting to forensic genetic genealogy. They note that using traditional investigative and genealogical methods are allowed.

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