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Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney Explains How Police Use DNA to Link People to Crimes

Can you tell us when someone in law enforcement can really ask for your DNA

SPEAKER 2
00:08 – 01:12
Absolutely. Erica. So there are a variety of ways that law enforcement can get asample of DNA from an individual. First is they can issue a subpoena to one of theseprivate companies like 23. And me, my heritage, family tree DNA. Any of these placesthat you were talking about that do these private DNA testing, law enforcement canissue a subpoena to them and they will turn over the results of your DNA test. So whenyou’re submitting your DNA to these individuals, when to these companies, you need tobe very aware of the rights and the privacy rights that you’re giving up. And in thosecircumstances now for law enforcement to get a sample directly from you, then theyneed a, they need a warrant to obtain that. a lot of people will give that upvoluntarily, but they can’t use it for investigative purposes unless they have awarrant or your consent.

SPEAKER 2
01:12 – 02:16
Now, the other way in Ohio that law enforcement often obtains DNA is at the point of a felony arrest. Ohio law requires in addition to a photograph and fingerprints that law enforcement, collect a DNA sample. Now that DNA sample can only be used for identification purposes. If you were to skip bail, or otherwise avoid jurisdiction of the court, they can’t use that for criminal testing and identification in the criminal case itself, they have to have a warrant for that. So those are generally speaking. The three ways that law enforcement can collect DNA from an individual. Now you mentioned also Erica, collecting, a used soda can, or a cigarette, but really anything that, you can leave DNA on. And there is a wide array of items that collect our DNA over the course of a day, can be a source of a sample, not a forensically valid sample, but a sample nonetheless.

SPEAKER 1
02:18 – 02:28
Wow. That is really interesting. can you tell me a little bit about, you know, why would you use DNA to link somebody to a crime

SPEAKER 2
02:30 – 03:08
So DNA is a form of trace evidence. DNA can establish that a particular person was in a particular location. It can establish that a particular person, had contact with a particular object at one time, and it can yield a variety of degrees of identification. So it can identify who an individual was, that touched an object. Was that person, male or female. it can narrow down the field from the 7 billion people on earth down to let’s say, you know, a few million, depending on the quality of the sample itself,

SPEAKER 1
03:08 – 03:27
You mentioned earlier about, you know, really warning us about giving our DNA away to a third party company and how it could be used later on against us if we ever were implicated in a crime. is there any way to prevent that from happening

SPEAKER 2
03:28 – 04:27
Well, it depends on the individual. Company’s fine print. So what we’re looking for in the contract that you sign, when you agree to let that company sample your DNA and provide you your results is what, what, what level of law enforcement compliance do they provide even in States where privacy laws prevent this law enforcement can lie to you in order to entice you and give them their permission to collect your DNA. So say they want say they want DNA from you, Erica. they can deceive you into saying, well, we’re just trying to exclude you from this investigation. Or, you know, we need a comparative sample because we’re looking at one of your relatives. you know, like what happened to Eleanor Holmes, who was an innocent woman and was lied to, to secure her DNA sample. ultimately her son was convicted, of a decades old murder.

SPEAKER 2
04:28 – 05:56
So they use the mother to get at the son. oftentimes a DNA sample is not a full, picture of the individual’s DNA. So the quality of the sample itself can reallydetermine how accurate DNA testing is. If we think more in terms of something thatpeople have a broader and longer term understanding of like fingerprints, if you putyour fingerprint directly onto a glass very carefully, and you roll your fingeracross that piece of glass, you’re going to leave most likely, a very detailed and avery clear fingerprint on that piece of glass in the same way. If you take a cottonswab and you swab it on the inside of your cheek, and you put that swab directly intoa sealed container, you’re going to have a very good DNA sample. Now let’s talk aboutwhat evidence is actually typically collected in a crime scene. So we talked aboutcigarette butts. We talked about, we talked about soda cans, underwear, clothingitems, touch DNA on bed clothes, and other locations around the house. Those samplesare often degraded by time and intermingled with the DNA of other individuals. And sothe results that come out of them can often be very mixed at best and wildlyinaccurate at worst.