Maryland Democrats Want to Prevent Police from Using DNA Database to Solve Crimes

A Maryland Democrat has introduced a bill to outlaw the use of DNA databases to solve crimes in the Old Line State.

The Democrat wants a law that would prohibit the use of commercial familial DNA databases to solve crimes.

As the Associated Press reported:

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House bill 30, sponsored by Delegate Charles Sydnor, D-Baltimore County, seeks to prohibit searches of consumer genealogical databases for the purpose of identifying an offender in connection with a crime through their biological relative’s DNA samples.

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The District of Columbia and Maryland are the only two places that don’t allow the use of these databases to solve crime.

The AP notes:

In 1994, the state enacted the Maryland DNA Collection Act, which authorized the gathering of DNA for an official investigation of a crime, to identify human remains, and to identify missing persons, among other purposes.

In 2008, Chapter 337 amended the Collection Act to allow the state to gather and retain DNA from people arrested for burglary or violent crimes at the time of their arrest.

The 2008 law also prohibited searching the statewide database for DNA collected from a relative to identify a crime suspect.

The Democrat says that it isn’t fair to use these databases to put people behind bars unless they have voluntarily given their DNA to police.

“Such searches may also mean that over 50 percent of Marylanders can be identifiable, even if an individual potentially under scrutiny hasn’t voluntarily submitted their DNA to any database, according to Natalie Ram, an assistant professor of law at the University of Baltimore,” the AP added.

Jessica Vitak, an assistant professor in the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies, told the AP that these databases may present an unfair situation.

“Because DNA is genetic and is shared between relatives, your privacy could be violated by somebody other than you, and in many cases, this data could be used against you . because the control of data about you is in other people’s hands,” Vitak said.

But the police countered saying that the databases are not used to convict anyone but only to generate leads that help them solve crimes.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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