Relatives' DNA can soon be used for police investigations

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU, AP) - A controversial investigation method could soon start in Wisconsin.

The change will allow investigators with DNA samples from a crime scene to use partial matches with someone in the current database. Those partial matches could be relatives of the suspects who didn't have their own information recorded.

The Department of Justice says it could provide more leads in finding a suspect.

Opponents like the American Civil Liberties Union sadi it's a violation of privacy.

“It essentially treats those people as if they were committing crimes or implicated in crimes that they may have no knowledge or awareness of,” ACLU board president Stephanie Turner said.

She said Wisconsin's law allowing police to take DNA samples during arrest means more people could be subject to questioning.

“The very idea that law enforcement would be using this with this precedent that's already in place with DNA collection prior to conviction suggests that that family is somehow on the wrong side of the law,” Turner said.

Harry Hertel, who's been an attorney for almost 40 years, says the new practice could offer new questions and concerns.

“You could literally have people who are perhaps adopted, that have family members who are adopted and the law enforcement might perceive that that individual knows everything about the other person, and they may know nothing,” Hertel said.

“If people get arrested for felonies, and then the district attorney gets the file and says oh, this isn't a felony. Is the DNA really going to be destroyed? Will it be maintained? It creates a lot of questions. Whereas right now, it's only people who have been convicted of felonies, who provide DNA,” he said.

Hertel said he would like to see extensive efforts go into investigations before police go to family members who partially match DNA left behind.

The Department of Justice said it is double checking its software for this testing.

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