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Ohio uses familial DNA to identify suspect for the first time

The use of DNA in criminal cases is well known. Police routinely look for blood or other organic evidence from crime scenes to be used to identify criminal suspects as well as victims. DNA is made up of chromosomes and is generally unique to every individual. This uniqueness allows individuals to be identified with a high degree of accuracy. It has also been used to exonerate many who were wrongly convicted.

Familial DNA uses evidence collected at a crime scene to then be run against existing databases of males who have been involved in criminal prosecutions. It uses the male Y-chromosome, which is only passed down to sons, so it cannot be used in cases where a female is suspected. While it may not produce a direct match, it can allow police to identify possible suspects. Ohio employed this technique to identify man charged a child abduction case.

The man was arrested and charged with 14-counts rape, kidnapping and aggravated burglary. The match was made because his brother had been arrested and pled guilty in 2007 to a charge of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor when the brother was 19, which placed his DNA in the state's database. The Ohio crime lab matched DNA evidence as being similar to this man's DNA, which then led to police focusing on the brother as a suspect.

Ohio's Attorney General has announced that there will use a 12-step protocol to control the searches of familial DNA. The danger with such a system is that without strict controls and enforcement, that it could be used to arrest and charge individuals based on little more than guilt by association.

Some other states have used the process, but at least one state has found the use of familial DNA unconstitutional and prohibited its use. 

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