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Laws Overview

Is forensic DNA phenotyping regulated?


Few jurisdictions have regulations that specifically address the forensic use of DNA for phenotype prediction. The method is still too new and too infrequently used to have generated legislative efforts. Most existing DNA-related legislation is concerned with traditional DNA typing, which relies on analysis of non-coding regions of DNA and, thus, does not reveal personal information. In contrast, FDP examines coding DNA to attempt to uncover personal information, such as skin, hair, and eye color and geographical ancestry. However, by implication, some  traditional DNA-typing regulations might be interpreted as addressing the permissibility of FDP. For example, laws that forbid DNA-analysis other than that required for DNA-typing or that specify that only non-coding regions of DNA can be analyzed for forensic purposes would seem to rule out FDP even if they do not mention FDP or visual trait prediction by name.  Only the Netherlands has passed legislation that specifically permits FDP.

Tracking FDP-related legislation and statutes


Tracing the emergence of regulations that address FDP is a useful way to track government interest and social acceptance of the method. Based on findings reported in 2008 by Bert-Jaap Koops and Maurice Schellekens ("Forensic DNA Phenotying: Regulatory Issues," The Columbia Science and Technology Law Review 9 (2008): 158-202) and on some additional research, we have created the following tables that summarize what we know about FDP regulation internationally.  This is a work in progress; we have listed only those countries for which we have some indication whether existing laws seem to permit or seem not to permit FDP.

How you can help


We strongly encourage you to submit additional information about laws or regulations, whether already implemented or under consideration, so that we can create a more comprehensive account of FDP-related legislation.
 



North America

Locale
FDP Explicitly Permitted or Forbidden
Information Indicating that FDP Has Been Used

Canada
Neither.  However, forensic use of DNA is restricted to non-coding regions.



United States (federal level)




California


Yes, FDP was used in the investigation of the murders of Leslie Mazzara and Adriane Insogna.

Colorado


Yes, FDP was used in the investigation of the murder of Susannah Chase.

Florida


Yes, FDP was used in the investigation of the murder of Mildred Weiss.

Indiana
State law forbids using DNA samples submitted to its databank for determining phenotypic information.



Louisiana



Yes, FDP was used in the investigation of the Baton Rouge serial killer.



Rhode Island
State law forbids using DNA samples submitted to its databank for determining phenotypic information.



Vermont

Neither, but state law forbids forensic DNA analysis that might identify any medical or genetic disorder.


Virginia



Yes, FDP was used in the investigation of the Charlottesville serial rapist.


Wyoming
State law forbids using DNA samples submitted to its databank for determining phenotypic information.



 
Oceania

Locale
FDP Explicitly Permitted or Forbidden
Information Indicating that FDP Has Been Used

Australia
Neither, but forensic use of DNA is restricted to non-coding regions.


 
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It is not known how often law enforcement agencies have turned to FDP as part of an attempt to identify an unknown suspect or victim; some reports claim that the method has been used in several hundre ... 


Laws Overview

Is forensic DNA phenotyping regulated?
Few jurisdictions have regulations that specifically address the forensic use of DNA for phenotype prediction. The method is still too new and too infrequently  ... 


Research Overview

We are collecting references for papers, reports, conference presentations, or abstracts that report findings relevant to FDP. Our intent is to periodically publish an annotated bibliography that trac ... 


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