If you commit a crime and get caught, there are certain things that you automatically give up — like the right to your personal privacy.
While that means many different things, like losing the right to have a private phone conversation and having your personal mail opened and read, these days it can also mean having your genetic material, or DNA, collected and electronically cataloged in a database of offenders.
But what if you really didn’t commit the crime?
Ohio is one of many states that now collect DNA samples from criminals. However, like many other states, Ohio has stopped waiting to see if someone is actually convicted of a crime before collecting that person’s DNA and adding it to the offender database. Authorities may also collect the sample when someone is arrested, even if he or she is later released without being charged — something that often happens when an arrest is dubious in nature or a prosecutor reviews the evidence during intake procedures and determines that there’s little chance of a conviction.
What happens to that very personal information that the state has collected when it turns out that the individual arrested is either released without charges or acquitted?
It continues to sit in the database just as if that person had been convicted — available for whatever future use the state or federal government may make of such things.
This is a huge invasion of the personal privacy of everyone who isn’t actually convicted of a crime — and many defense attorneys feel that genetic data should be automatically deleted if an individual isn’t eventually convicted of an offense.
The state and federal authorities disagree. News of oversights where authorities have been lax about collecting the DNA evidence required by law since 2011 have led to a massive push to get those collections done — even if authorities have to track down an offender who has since been released from prison. However, authorities say that it is simply too much trouble to automatically remove that DNA data from their records when an individual isn’t convicted.
If someone wants his or her DNA evidence removed from the database, he or she has to get a court order to force the authorities to comply.
If your genetic evidence is sitting around in a database and you need help restoring your right to personal privacy, a criminal defense attorney can help.
Source: cleveland.com, “DNA collected at arrest often not removed from crime databases for those not convicted,” Rachel Dissell, Aug. 20, 2017