Familial searching- policies, challenges and constraints

DNA profiling can be used in crime investigations to identify a suspect using genetic matching of a forensic sample with the suspect’s DNA. Familial searching takes this one step further, and allows investigators to search an existing database of previous offenders for partial matches. Any individuals within the database who are related to the offender will therefore be identified, thus providing a lead to the offender.

In a comprehensive review published in Investigative Genetics today by Katsanis et al., the authors explore the various constraints surrounding current uses of familial searching, as well as challenges faced by policy makers. They discuss various ways in which constraints have been overcome and suggest several options for consideration when creating robust policies at both state and national level.

In the move towards an effective policy system, considerations of balancing crime fighting and public safety against potential impact on society must be made. Policy makers therefore contend with economic, logistical, social, ethical and legal issues surrounding familial searching, whilst maintaining the common goal of identifying criminals through this recent innovation in technology.

The authors highlight key policy options which may be considered when implementing the use of familial searching. These can be used to provide a basis on which policies can be formed, with the intention of improving the criminal justice system and convicting criminals.

Investigative Genetics publishes articles on the development and application of molecular genetics in a wide range of science disciplines with societal relevance. These include forensic issues and legal medicine, evolutionary, anthropological and historical studies, as well as epidemiology and biosafety. Research, reviews, or methodologies can be submitted via the online submission system and will benefit from a rapid peer review process and fast publication.

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