TRENTON, NJ – If you’re under 20-years-old, you might want to think twice before committing a crime in New Jersey. That’s because the government has your DNA on file. For the past 20 years, the state has required DNA samples to be taken from every baby born in the state. Those samples are taken without the knowledge or consent of their parents.
Even if you’re not under 20 years old, DNA taken from a baby born in your family during that period is also being used in criminal cases against family members, according to a lawsuit filed recently.
Those DNA samples are sent to a state-run lab that tests the DNA for genetic abnormalities. Now, police in New Jersey are using that lab as a criminal database of DNA. That database is held by the New Jersey Department of Health, Division of Public Health and Environmental Labratories.
Every baby born in New Jersey is required by law to be tested for sixty disorders within 48 hours of birth as part of the State’s Newborn Bloodspot Screening Program.
Through a simple needle prick to the heel, hospitals, medical facilities, and health care providers collect blood from newborns.
Those blood spot samples are later tested by the Newborn Screening Laboratory, which is operated by the New Jersey Department of Health, Public Health and Environmental Laboratories.
These blood spot samples are taken without informed consent by the newborn’s parents or guardians, and, upon information and belief, the samples are stored by the state for more than twenty years”
According to a lawsuit filed by New Jersey Monito, the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender (OPD) recently learned that the State Police has successfully subpoenaed a newborn blood spot sample from the Newborn Screening Laboratory that belonged to a child who is now approximately nine years old.
“The reason the State Police subpoenaed the sample was so that it could perform a DNA analysis on the sample and tie the child’s father, who became OPD’s client, to a crime that was committed in1996,” the lawsuit claims. “By serving a subpoena upon the Newborn Screening Laboratory, the State Policesidestepped its constitutional obligation to develop probable cause and obtain a warrant so that it could obtain a buccal swab from OPD’s client to perform an analysis of his DNA.”
By obtaining the child’s blood spot sample from the Newborn Screening Laboratory, it was able to perform an aDNA analysis on the child’s blood and then use those DNA results to form the basis of an affidavit of probable cause to obtain a warrant for a buccal swab from OPD’s client. OPD’s client was later criminally charged.
The lawsuit claims the use of those records amounts to an illegal search by the State Police and an overreach by the government to sidestep the constitutional rights of the accused in New Jersey.
Now, after learning of one subpoena, the lawsuit seeks to find out how often the State Police are using these DNA records during their criminal investigations.
“The New Jersey Monitor believes the public would be shocked by what has occurred in OPD’s client’s case and that law enforcement agencies are skirting warrant requirements this way and misusing blood samples that were gathered for health purposes to instead conduct criminal investigations,” the lawsuit states. “It also believes that parents, in particular, would be shocked4to learn that their children’s blood samples are being stored by the Department of Health for more than twenty years and are being accessed by law enforcement agencies without their knowledge consent so that their DNA could be analyzed. Many parents are likely not even aware of the screening program or that blood was drawn from their newborn babies, let alone that their children’s genetic privacy could be violated in this way.”