44. How is an individual identified using the DNA from the family of a missing person?
The DNA from close relatives can help in establishing a DNA profile for the missing person. DNA is passed from parents to their children so the most beneficial samples for this purpose are those from a biological mother, father, brothers, sisters, or children. In situations where samples from children of a missing parent are collected, the spouse or parent in common should also be considered for collection in order to determine what portion of the child’s DNA is in common with the missing parent. The samples collected from relatives are sent to an accredited forensic laboratory for DNA testing. The DNA profiles obtained from the relatives’ samples are submitted to the FBI’s National DNA Index System (NDIS), also referred to as the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), solely for the comparison to DNA profiles obtained from unidentified persons or remains.
Relatives of a missing person may voluntarily provide DNA samples. These samples are known as Family Reference Samples. Law enforcement agencies, involved in an active missing person case (case in which a missing person report has been filed), are encouraged to collect Family Reference Samples from two or more close biological relatives of the missing person and obtain a consent form signed by the contributing relative to document that the DNA samples were given voluntarily.
45. What are the requirements for the collection of Family Reference Samples for entry and searching in NDIS?
Relatives of a missing person must be willing to provide a DNA sample and sign a consent form in the presence of law enforcement. Only DNA samples collected voluntarily from relatives of a missing person are eligible for searching in NDIS. Those profiles will be used only for identifying a missing person or remains. (34 U.S.C. § 12592(a)(4)).
Law enforcement personnel must witness the voluntary collection of the Family Reference Samples and a consent and information form must be completed and signed by the person providing the DNA sample. The identity of the contributor providing the DNA sample must be verified by law enforcement (e.g., through presentation of an appropriate government-issued identification card). Family reference samples which are not submitted by law enforcement and with the appropriate documentation will not be accepted for entry into NDIS.
46. What is the purpose of the consent and information form?
34 U.S.C. §12592(a)(4) authorized the FBI to establish an index of DNA profiles developed from DNA samples voluntarily contributed by relatives of missing persons. The consent form documents that the DNA sample was voluntarily contributed and provides permission for inclusion in CODIS for the sole purpose of identifying a missing person or recovered remains. It also indicates where, by whom, and how the Family Reference Sample was collected. Additional information related to the missing person such as metadata is collected on the form to assist with resolving possible associations between relatives and unidentified persons.
47. How will the DNA information contributed by a relative of a missing person be used?
Following 34 U.S.C. §12592 (b)(3)(A), the DNA information will be released only to criminal justice agencies for identification purposes and for comparison to DNA profiles related to the disappearance of individuals indexed in the missing persons database. The DNA profiles obtained from the Family Reference Samples will only be searched against the DNA profiles from unidentified persons stored at NDIS.
48. How long is the DNA profile stored in the database?
The DNA records of relatives of a missing person will remain in NDIS and be searched against missing persons and unidentified human remains profiles until one of the following happens: (1) the missing person has been identified; or (2) the family member who voluntarily provided the DNA sample is determined not to be related to the missing person; or (3) the family member who voluntarily provided the DNA sample requests in writing that it be removed.
After an identification is confirmed, the DNA profiles from the relatives of a missing person are removed from the database. In the event of only partial remains being located and identified, laboratory personnel may decide to allow the Family Reference Samples to remain in the database to assist with possible future recoveries. The family member who voluntarily provided the DNA sample may request in writing that the DNA profile be removed from NDIS at any time.
49. How is an identification established?
Once a potential association is found, the results are provided to the law enforcement agency and the appropriate medico-legal (usually a medical examiner or coroner) authority. Only the designated medico-legal authority can declare the identity through the issuance of a death certificate.
50. Can DNA profiles from foreign nationals whose family members have gone missing in the United States be added to NDIS?
Foreign nationals can be added to NDIS for the purpose of assisting with the identification of a missing family member. The DNA Identification Act of 1994 does not limit the entry of a voluntarily provided Family Reference Sample based on the nationality of the donor. However, any voluntarily provided DNA sample must be collected in the presence of law enforcement and include the appropriate consent and information documentation.
51. Can a private laboratory enter a DNA profile from an unidentified person or a Family Reference Sample into NDIS?
Private laboratories do not have access to NDIS. Private laboratories must work in partnership with an NDIS participating laboratory in order to meet requirements for the outsourcing of casework samples contained in Standard 17 of the Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing and DNA Databasing Laboratories.