Can police seize your dirty undies? DNA collection rights questioned

Professor Jeremy Gans
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The rights of police to secretly collect suspects’ discarded DNA material remains dangerously unregulated in Australia, a University of Melbourne analysis has determined.

Laws designed to manage the collection of DNA samples direct from a person’s body are largely silent on the collection of discarded bodily material, such as saliva on cigarette butts or abandoned chewing gum.

Writing in the Journal of Law and Medicine , Criminal Law Professor Jeremy Gans details instances (from various jurisdictions) where police have obtained DNA samples by coaxing suspects into licking stamps, orchestrating sham "random" breath tests of motorists or seizing a teenager’s dirty underpants.

"Extra-bodily DNA sampling is almost entirely unregulated," warns Professor Gans.

"It’s only loosely governed by existing laws on property, consent and evidence."

Professor Gans argues this "regulation gap" is a serious concern.

"This means a police officer’s right to covertly collect discarded DNA samples is murky at best, and a suspect’s right to refuse to provide a sample is simply taken away."

"On either measure, that’s not good enough."

Professor Gans said courts generally endorse the collection of DNA material found at a crime scene, but the definition of a ’crime scene’ is itself murky.

"Where does a scene start and end? And when? Does it extend to alleged crime victims, witnesses and other locals...’" he asks.

Then full article ’Extra-bodily DNA sampling by the police’ is available here.


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