Genealogy Testing: A New Frontier for Criminal Investigations?

Genealogy Testing: A New Frontier for Criminal Investigations?

DNA genealogy systems are increasingly being used to link perpetrators with a crime.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) operates a central DNA database for the country, and Illinois is considering joining the eleven states that already use the process to help their police departments identify criminals.

And it’s not just the perpetrator’s DNA that may be linked to a crime – a family member’s DNA may wind up pointing the finger at a criminal as well. Sites commonly used by genealogists, such as, can help generate a DNA profile that can lead law enforcement to a related individual.

If you have been accused of a crime in Illinois, be aware that new techniques such as genealogy testing can make your defense more complicated.  It is essential to get top-notch legal assistance from an attorney who can fight for your freedom and rights. The experienced Illinois criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who will work with you to mount the most effective defense possible, even when DNA evidence is involved.  We offer a free consultation, so call or contact us online for help today if you have been accused of any criminal charges.

How DNA Evidence Works

Everyone has a unique set of genes in their DNA, the genetic code which exists in the cells of the body.  When an individual commits a crime, some of their cells, such as from drops of blood or pieces of skin or hair are often found at the crime scene.  If the person’s DNA has been previously catalogued in a data base – whether or not for criminal activity — this can be matched by 20 identifying factors and the criminal identified.

Previously, when these direct matches could not be made, the DNA search ended. But now there is an additional search method that identifies people who might be closely related to whoever left DNA at a crime scene. A match on 10 of the 20 critical markers strongly suggests a person is a close relative of the suspect. Through familial searches, detectives can come up with a list of near-matches, often parents, children or siblings.

In recent years, the number of people who have had their DNA voluntarily analyzed has increased to where the two leading companies have reportedly tested 10 million people. Without realizing it, people who have submitted their DNA, often for reasons such as searching ancestry, have become genetic informants on their relatives.

Law enforcement can create an account on these sites, upload raw DNA data and find profiles that match to varying degrees. When law enforcement comes up with individuals who are a close match to the DNA found at a crime scene, the investigators look for relatives who fit the profile of the sought-after criminal.

The Case Of the Suspected Golden State Killer

An example is the highly publicized case in California which led to the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo, a former policeman authorities accuse of being the serial rapist and murderer known as the Golden State Killer.  To find him, California authorities utilized a genealogical ancestry database.

During his murderous crime spree, DeAngelo left behind DNA which investigators used to create a profile of the killer. While the DNA didn’t match any of the samples in criminal DNA databases, the online genealogy database produced a list of about 100 men for further investigation.  This list was narrowed to find men who fit the profile of the Golden State Killer — those about the right age and height and living in California when the crimes took place.

DeAngelo was one of the suspects, and when detectives found a discarded item that had his DNA on it, they were able to quickly get a DNA match result that led to his arrest.  DeAngelo has been charged with eight murders and is suspected of a dozen killings, 45 rapes and more than 120 burglaries.

If You Have Been Accused

The use of DNA for identification is increasing; however, if you have been identified as a perpetrator through tracing familial DNA, there may be privacy considerations involved that could be used in your defense.

Ancestry-tracing companies feel their platforms should be private and not be used to support the comparison of genetic data processed by any third party to genetic profiles within their database.  Using familial DNA as an investigative tool has also faced opposition from civil libertarians, who worry about negative attention for the relatives of crime suspects and the possibility of people being falsely investigated and harassed by the police.

Put Your Trust In Us — Contact Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. for a Free Consultation.

Whether or not DNA is involved, if you have been charged with a criminal offense in Illinois, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney available.  The experienced and seasoned Illinois criminal defense attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. will examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available in every situation.  We work with our clients to come up with an effective defense strategy and determine whether to take a case to trial. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties, rights, and your ability to find employment.

We are aggressive litigators and will answer all your questions to make sure you fully understand the facts surrounding your case.  We represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, and the greater Chicagoland area.

Delaying can only make your situation worse, so call our office or contact us online today to schedule your free initial consultation.

Attorney Marc Wolfe

Marc Wolfe has been representing clients in criminal matters in Chicago and the entire State of Illinois for over 30 years. Mr. Wolfe has tried over 300 cases to verdict and represents clients facing investigation or prosecution for a broad range of state and federal criminal offenses, including murder, embezzlement, sexual abuse, drugs, marijuana and white collar crimes. [ Attorney Bio ]