The U.S. national DNA database system allows law enforcement officers around the country to compare forensic evidence to a central repository of DNA information. In this way, officers can better determine the identity of a suspect based on biological crime scene evidence. This is especially helpful when suspects cross state lines.
The database originally tracked only sex offenders, but has expanded to include all people convicted of a qualifying federal offense. Some states and the federal government have also begun collecting DNA samples from people who have been arrested for a crime but have not yet been convicted, as well as from detained immigrants.
The following is an overview of the U.S. national DNA database system, including its beginnings and how it's used by law enforcement.
The U.S. National DNA Database System: Origins and Basics
This program began as a pilot project of the FBI after the DNA Identification Act of 1994 funded federal DNA labs and authorized the FBI to begin compiling genetic information into a central database. The Justice for All Act of 2004 expanded the number of crimes that qualified for inclusion in the database and required public labs to receive accreditation before the national database would accept their DNA profiles.
The national DNA database has many components. At its core is a database of DNA information and a set of software and communications tools for comparing data collected from different sources. The database is known as the National DNA Index System (NDIS), and the system for analyzing and communicating data is called the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
How the DNA Database is Administered and Used
The FBI administers both the NDIS and CODIS, but the DNA information contained in the national database comes from both the federal government and the states. The national DNA database system has three basic levels: first, local governments collect DNA information in their own databases. The local government can submit approved DNA profiles to their states own DNA database.
Next, each state collects the approved profiles from its local jurisdictions, as well as profiles that the state creates itself. Every state has a set of rules that governs what profiles can go into the state database.
Finally, the states submit the DNA profiles that meet the requirements for inclusion to NDIS.
U.S. National DNA Database: Issues and Concerns
Several people have challenged the various state and federal DNA collection laws on the grounds that the collection of DNA samples constitutes an illegal search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. For the most part, however, courts have upheld the laws and allowed the collection to continue.
Issues still remain, though, especially for laws that allow for the collection of DNA from those arrested but not yet convicted. Civil rights advocates have raised concerns that an individual's DNA profile could remain in the national database even after an acquittal, and many claim that some institutions have instituted discriminatory DNA collection policies.
Need Help With DNA Evidence? Contact an Experienced Lawyer Today
The U.S. National DNA Database System uses DNA collected from criminal subjects throughout the country to store, track and locate criminals by matching DNA samples from subjects to data stored in its database. In most states, criminal subjects can be DNA "swabbed" for charges as low as loitering. If your DNA has been linked to a serious crime, or you've been charged with a criminal offense involving physical evidence, you should immediately seek out the advice of a criminal defense attorney.