Two States Restrict Police Use of DNA Search Method

Maryland and Montana are the first states to restrict law enforcement’s use of genetic genealogy. The New York Times reported in May of 2021. Genetic genealogy is the technique that identified the Golden State Killer in 2018. The laws in Maryland and Montana are an effort to ensure the genetic privacy of an accused person.

Montana’s House Bill 602 is titled: “Require warrant for search of consumer DNA database”. It passed with a vote of 48 to 1. The bill states that a government entity may not obtain DNA search results from a consumer DNA database without a search warrant issued by the court on a finding of probable cause. It was signed into law by Governor Greg Gianforte.

Maryland’s law is titled: “Criminal Procedure -Forensic Genetic Genealogical DNA Analysis, Searching, Regulation, and Oversight”. It establishes that a certain forensic genetic genealogical DNA analysis and search may not be initiated without certifying certain information before a court and obtaining authorization from the court. This bill will become law on October 1, 2021.

The Maryland law requires police officers and other investigators who are interested in genetic genealogy to first try their luck with a government-run DNA database called CODIS. In 2019, the U.S. Justice Department required officers and investigators, who had taken a DNA sample from the scene of a violent crime, to start by using CODIS.

The New York Times pointed out that 23andMe and Ancestry have kept their immense genetic databases unavailable to law enforcement without a court order. Other companies, including GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA (which is not connected to are described as “eager to cooperate” with law enforcement. The New York Times says that those two companies have their opt-in settings turned on by default.

Related Articles on

Police Used DNA to Identify the Golden State Killer

Department of Justice Made Rules About Forensic Genetic Genealogy

Best Practices to Protect Privacy of Consumer Genetic Data

< Return To Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.