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Court Stops Familial DNA Searches in New York

A ruling from a New York court has stopped familial DNA searches in the state, the Associated Press reports.

Law enforcement officials increasingly turn to familial DNA searches to identify relatives of someone who may have left DNA evidence behind at a crime scene when there is no direct identification and, from there, zero in on that person of interest. Genetic genealogy and familial searches, the AP notes, have been used in cold cases and to identify serial killers. But it adds that they also raise privacy and racial discrimination concerns. Some critics have argued that the approach amounts to an unreasonable search and disproportionately affects minorities due to over-policing of minority communities.

An appeals court in New York reviewing a challenge brought by a group of Black men who said they were more likely to be the targets of an investigation due to their brothers being convicted of crimes found that the use of the approach in the state was invalid, the AP reports. The court said that a state committee implemented it without the consent of the legislature, which had debated expanding the use of state DNA database but never authorized familial searches, it adds.

The AP notes that the decision could be further appealed.