For the first time in history, San Diego police have turned to familial DNA to catch a suspect in a criminal investigation. Vista criminal lawyer Peter M. Liss explains what this means and why it matters not just to potential criminals, but to society as a whole.
After a suspect is arrested for a felony charge, their DNA is taken and put in a state database. When DNA is uncovered in a criminal investigation, it is often ran against these samples to tie past felons to new crimes. In very rare cases, police may seek authorization to widen a search on the DNA database in order to identify persons who have a family relationship with the person who left the DNA at the crime scene.
In a recent case, a series of girls in North County were molested by a man who sneaked into their rooms while they were sleeping. Police found DNA evidence on a number of suspects. After they were unable to identify a suspect, they turned to using a familial DNA search which resulted in a male relative of the DNA sample. From this connection, police were able to identify a suspect -Gilbert Andrew Chavarria. The suspect’s Vista child molestation attorney will most likely argue that this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
Police, prosecutors and members of the general public argue that family DNA samples are a good way to find suspects in otherwise difficult (sometimes possibly impossible) to solve cases in Vista. Criminal attorneys, civil liberty defense groups and those concerned about a citizen’s right to privacy worry that every step towards a universal DNA database is one more step closer to eliminating the privacy of all citizens. This is why it is advisable not to give a DNA sample unless court ordered.
The right to privacy is hard to balance with the obligation to solve crimes, but it is a critical constitutional issue that needs to be explored by police, prosecutors, judges and attorneys alike. If you believe your right to privacy has been violated during a criminal investigation, let your Vista defense lawyer know as it could potentially help your case if the evidence ends up being withheld from trial.
If you have any questions about your right to privacy and the police, please contact Vista criminal defense attorney Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050.
Creative Commons Image by Micah Baldwin