Washington, DC (March 4, 2013) – On February 23, 2013, the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) adopted three important DNA-related Resolutions at its Midwinter Meeting.
First, the FBI federal Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database, which contains over 10 million offenders and 1.3 million arrestees, is currently not accessible to the defense. In a board resolution, NACDL resolved to support “federal and state legislation to ensure defense access to CODIS for purposes of preparing a defense or petition for post-conviction relief or executive clemency.” In that same resolution the board also resolved “that such legislation should authorize courts to order, upon the accused’s pre-trial or post-conviction request, that a law enforcement entity that has access to the Combined DNA Index System submit the DNA profile obtained from probative biological material from crime scene evidence to determine whether it matches a profile of a known individual or a profile from an unsolved crime.”
As explained by NACDL President Steven D. Benjamin, “There is no sound basis for denying defense access to CODIS. Indeed, justice demands it.”
NACDL also took a stance on familial DNA searching via two resolutions, the first resolution resolving that “NACDL opposes the use of familial DNA searching during criminal investigations.” To the extent that these searches are nonetheless conducted, the Board urged federal or state legislation authorizing the use of familial searches only if subject to a set of restrictions set forth in a second resolution concerning the use of familial DNA searching during criminal investigations. Those restrictions include (i) the creation of an independent body to study the costs and benefits of familial DNA testing, (ii) reasonable limitations to prevent DNA dragnets, (iii) protocols to minimize intrusions on individual privacy interests, (iv) data collection requirements to facilitate cost-benefit analysis, and (v) equal defense access and process for inter-jurisdictional conflict.
Concerning these two familial DNA-related resolutions, NACDL President Steven D. Benjamin said, “After vigorous discussion and debate, NACDL’s Board opposed the use of familial DNA searching during criminal investigations because of the potential for abuse and disparate impact. In a perfect world, such searches would not be conducted. But since they are a reality, NACDL also adopted proposed restrictions that, if adopted in federal and state legislation, will ensure that familial DNA searches are conducted in the fairest manner possible.”
NACDL Board Resolutions are available at www.nacdl.org/resolutions.
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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.