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NJ Collects DNA Samples of All Babies Born in State and Police Can Access Data

The New Jersey Office of the Public Defender and the New Jersey Monitor recently filed a complaint against the New Jersey Department of Health Division and Environmental Laboratories seeking access to subpoenas served to the labs from law enforcement agencies requesting DNA results of newborns. 

In New Jersey, all babies born in the state must have a blood sample drawn within 48 hours to screen for 60 different disorders.  The program is mandated by the state. A state-run lab processes the samples and shares the data with the state health authority and the parents.  Law enforcement agencies do not have automatic access to the blood sample results.

Advocates for Fourth Amendment rights are concerned that the newborn disease-screening process is entering all babies born in the state into a DNA database with no ability to opt out and no protection against warrantless search and seizures of the babies’ DNA in the investigation of crimes.

The catalyst for the Public Defender’s lawsuit was its discovering that the New Jersey State Police successfully subpoenaed a testing lab for a blood sample drawn from a child born nine years ago.  The police performed a DNA analysis on the blood sample obtained without a probable cause warrant.  The subsequent analysis linked the child’s father to a crime committed more than 25 years ago.

The child’s father became a suspect in a re-opened cold case, and then a client of the Public Defender. The PD alerted the office to the techniques used to identify the man. The lawsuit asks the state of New Jersey to reveal the entire scope of subpoenaing labs for blood samples.  The lawsuit claims parents and the public are unaware that blood samples taken from their children could be used in criminal investigations.

The New Jersey Monitor is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan news site that strives to be a watchdog for all residents of the Garden State. Prior to the lawsuit, public records requests filed by the Monitor and the Public Defender’s Office seeking information on subpoenas served to the lab that conducts the disease screenings were denied by the state. The New Jersey State Police were unwilling to comment on the denied requests citing the pending litigation.

Sources:  The Verge, New Jersey Monitor

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