Using DNA to catch Killers and free the innocent is not a new concept. We typically think of using DNA to create a direct match between the suspect and the suspect’s DNA left at the crime scene. But what about using a public DNA database to search for potential relatives of a suspect in order to identify the actual suspect?
Below are several stories involving police catching killers using DNA databases most of us are familiar with. Review the stories and videos and answer the following questions.
How Did They Catch the Golden State Killer? An Online DNA Service and His Genetic Relatives Revealed the Suspect.
Another Murderer Caught Using Same DNA Website as the Golden State Killer Case
Search for ‘Golden State Killer’ Leads to Arrest of Ex-Cop.
1. Does a suspect have any privacy in the DNA he leaves at a crime scene to include DNA left inside of the body of a rape victim? Explain your answer, legally.
2. Does a person have privacy in their DNA left on trash that they discard? Explain your answer.
3. Is it okay, legally, for the police to use a suspect’s DNA to create a fake profile on a public DNA site in order to help identify relatives of that suspect?
4. Do any of these police tactics affect people who have not committed a crime? Explain how.
5. If the police have to use public databases for sources of DNA, what does that say about theories that the government has all of our DNA?
These familiar terms are often confused and misused. Probable cause and reasonable suspicion are two terms that are often confused. Read the article Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion explaining these two concepts. You are a police officer for all of the following scenarios.
1. You are patrolling at 2 am in June. You see a man standing on the side of a Subway sandwich shop that is open 24 hours. The man is peeking around the corner and he puts on a ski mask. The man sees your patrol car, removes the ski mask, and begins walking away from the Subway. Do you have probable cause or reasonable suspicion? Do you have justification to stop the man? Would you frisk the man? Write a short paragraph explaining what you would do and justify your actions?
2. You are patrolling near the mall at 4:30 pm. You see a man grab a purse from a woman walking to her car and knock her to the ground. The man starts running through the parking lot. He sees you and drops the purse but continues running away. Do you have probable cause or reasonable suspicion? Can you stop or arrest the man? What if he doesn’t stop? What would you do? Justify your actions.
3. You stop a vehicle for running a stop sign. When you walk up to the car you smell a strong odor of alcohol emanating from the inside of the car. The driver is a female about 30 years old. Her speech is slurred, her eyes or bloodshot. You see a spilled beer laying on the floorboard of the car. There is a small child in a car seat in the back of the car. You ask the woman to step out of the car. She refuses and tells you, you will have to drag her out of the car. Was your stop based on probable cause or reasonable suspicion? Do you have probable cause to arrest her? For what? Can you use force to remove her from the car? Justify your actions?