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Understanding Familial DNA: Policies, Procedures, and Potential Impact

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2013, $462,327)

This project will assess current practices regarding familial DNA searches (FDS), understand why some states employ this tool and others prohibit it, and evaluate its potential as an effective tool to investigate crime, close cold cases, and exonerate the wrongfully convicted. In order to achieve these goals, ICF will conduct a mixed-method analysis that begins with the convening of an expert roundtable that will result in a white paper on the arguments for and against FDS.
Next, ICF will conduct a literature review and analysis of current FDS practices, including a search of state and local FDS policies and prohibitions, and a survey of all 50 state CODIS administrators. This will augment the information gained by the initial expert panel. After the surveys are collected, ICF will select states for more intensive case studies and an analysis of outcomes. The states will be chosen to get a range of practices and prohibitions on FDS.
As part of the case studies, ICF will collect administrative data on individual forensic cases, particularly cases with familial or partial matches. Specifically, ICF will triangulate data from crime labs, law enforcement, and courts to collect the following types of data: 1. Case characteristics (e.g. offense type/seriousness, victim demographics, evidence type); 2. Search parameters; 3. Match characteristics (e.g. number of matched alleles, relation type of match, statistical rank of potential matches); and 4. Outcomes the number of samples tested for a familial match annually;, searches that result in a candidate match with possible offenders; the percentage of searches that result in a clear match but are not further investigated; the percentage of clear matches that are investigated but not convicted; the percentage of matches that result in a conviction; and the percentage of matches that result in exoneration of a wrongfully convicted individual.
Finally, ICF will create a replicable cost-benefit model that states and localities can use with their own datato learn more about implementing FDS in their jurisdictions. At the conclusion of the project, the expert roundtable will be reconvened to discuss the findings and consider options for dissemination.

Date Created: September 8, 2013