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Critic Argues Familial DNA Searches Are 'Genetic Stop-and-Frisk'

Familial DNA searches have enabled investigators to make arrests in prominent cases like Los Angeles' Grim Sleeper serial killer case. There, Lonnie Franklin, Jr., was tied to the murders because investigators noted that his son, who had been arrested on a weapons charge and had had his DNA collected by law enforcement, appeared related to the killer. But critics of using the approach — it is allowed in some eight states, but banned in Maryland and Washington, DC — say that it is an unreasonable search and disproportionately affects minorities.

In an opinion piece appearing in Newsday, Allison Lewis from the Legal Aid Society argues that familial DNA searches erroneously "impl[y] that criminality runs in the family, and that law-abiding relatives of the convicted deserve less privacy and more suspicion."

She adds that over-policing of poorer communities of color have led minorities to be overrepresented in both the criminal justice system and law enforcement DNA databases. "Supporters ignore this inevitable inequality because familial searching is purportedly race neutral. This is genetic stop-and-frisk," Lewis argues, adding that innocent people could get caught up in investigations.