Copyright (c) 2009 North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology
North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology
Article: Just the Facts, Ma'am: Removing the Drama from DNA Dragnets
NORTH CAROLINA JOURNAL OF LAW & TECHNOLOGY
11 N.C. J.L. & Tech. 51
Jennifer K. Wagner 1
Current discussions on the criminal law implications of deoxyribonucleic acid ("DNA") ancestry technologies are fraught with loaded language and patent political agendas. 2 When scholars frame the debate as a matter of the legality of "DNA dragnets" or "racial profiling," they effectively stifle any legitimate intellectual arguments relevant to law enforcement's use of DNA technologies that are vital to a democratic society. As United States President Barack Obama recently acknowledged, American society thrives on "free and open inquiry;" 3 yet distortions of the science or the law - intentionally or otherwise - push the discussion down treacherous and unnecessarily divisive tangents. Debating the constitutional merits of non-testamentary identification orders, routinization of DNA sampling upon arrest, and the appropriateness of forensic applications of DNA ancestry testing and indirect molecular photofitting in criminal investigations requires not only a "free and open inquiry" but also a nuanced understanding of genetics and law.
The following discussion first provides an introduction to the relevant legal context of criminal procedure. Because the technologies discussed here (DNA ancestry testing and indirect molecular photofitting) are not intended to serve as accusatory evidence against a defendant, 4 but rather as investigative tools to identify criminal suspects, the legal discussion is properly focused on the investigatory phase prior to any arrest or prosecution. Second, an introduction to the scientific method and theory of DNA ancestry testing and indirect molecular photofitting is provided. Third, law enforcement's application of DNA ancestry testing and ...
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