Communication and Ethical Issues

Communication and Ethical Issues

Communication and Ethical Issues

DNA is a component of the human body, unique to every individual. The DNA of an individual is present in their hair, nails, skin and body fluids including blood, sweat and saliva. It is available in cutlery and utensils used by individuals and in cigarette butts, napkins and paper towels used by individuals in restaurants. These sources are easily accessible to police and any other individuals who find DNA useful for various reasons. When police retrieve the DNA of a subject from a source without the knowledge or consent of an individual, this is referred to as collection of ‘abandoned’ DNA.

Collection of DNA without the knowledge or consent of a suspect unreasonably intrudes on an arrestee’s expectation of privacy. This is because an individual does not know that the police are looking for their DNA and they do not get to choose whether to provide it to the police. In addition to this, there is intrusion of the suspect’s privacy in general as the police follow them around or track them down as they look for an opportune moment to collect their DNA. An arrestee expects that their life remains private until they are officially informed that they are suspect under investigation, or until they are arrested.

As evidenced from the case of Leon Chatt, police followed him secretly and collected his saliva when he spat on the sidewalk. The fact that police secretly followed Leon Chatt is in itself intrusion of privacy. Collection of his saliva without his knowledge or consent is also intrusion of the arrestee’s privacy. The same happens for Altemio Sanchez who is followed by police and has his DNA collected from the tableware he uses on a date out with his wife without information or consent to collect his DNA. These two examples are a clear indication that there was intrusion of privacy of the arrestee’s.

Police can keep a suspect or an arrestee’s DNA file for very long periods, even forever after an arrest or conviction. This is because the files are stored in a police database and are not erased. These files are readily available and accessible to police whenever they need to use it in preparation for evidence in cases that they handle. This is evident from the case of Leon Chatt whose DNA, collected by police without consent was compared to DNA from murder scene collected about thirty two years prior, after the murder. This means that the police stored the DNA file for more than thirty-two years. The case of Altemio Sachez shows that there was a comparison between his DNA with DNA from a series of crimes from 1980’s, about twenty-six years ago. This indicates that police kept the DNA files from these crime scenes for this long. The two cases show that police hold DNA files even after closure of cases and can retrieve them for use in the future for the same or for other cases.

Law enforcement can use a person’s DNA to match against other crimes unrelated to the one for which they initially obtained it. This is because of the storage of DNA files in law enforcement databases promoting availability and accessibility of the DNA of individuals who were previously charged with committing other crimes, away from the one currently under investigation. The requirement that individuals previously charged with particular crimes must submit their DNA to law enforcement further proves that this DNA submitted by these individuals is stored in law enforcement databases and can be used in the investigation of crimes unrelated to the once an individual was initially charged with.


Charleston Newspapers Mar 18, 2007. (2007, March 18). Charleston Newspapers Mar 18, 2007.