Federal DNA Database 

Interpreting DNA

Starting on or about September 1, 2016, FDDU will begin to issue a new and smaller oral DNA collection device. This new collector allows for a direct transfer from inside the cheek onto collection paper in a similar manner to the current collection device, and allows for the possibility of self-collection by offenders. Detailed instructions for its use will be included in the kits, and the FD-936 form has not changed. Please use all the current kits in your inventory before ordering new kits. FDDU will still be accepting the old kits even after it begins sending out the new kits.

The Federal DNA Database Unit (FDDU) analyzes the Core CODIS loci DNA markers from buccal and blood samples of federal convicted offenders, arrestees facing federal charges, individuals convicted of certain District of Columbia offenses, and non-U.S. citizens detained under the authority of the U.S., for development of DNA profiles that are uploaded to the National DNA Index System (NDIS).

The Team 

Unit chief, forensic examiners, biologists, management and program analysts, DNA technical specialists, and contractors

What We Do 

FDDU serves the greater forensic community by aiding investigations through hit confirmations against individuals whose profiles are in the NDIS. Agencies submit blood or buccal samples to FDDU from individuals who are required by law to do so. These include individuals convicted of, arrested for, or facing charges of certain qualifying federal crimes or convicted of qualifying District of Columbia offenses, as well as non-U.S. citizens who are detained under the authority of the United States. FDDU then produces a DNA profile for each of these individuals and uploads it to the NDIS, which is part of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). NDIS-participating casework laboratories are able to search their approved questioned samples against the NDIS. If a hit occurs between the casework sample and one of our offenders, the casework laboratory can request FDDU to confirm the offender sample DNA profile. After the confirmation of the offender sample DNA profile, FDDU will release a hit letter that includes information about the offender, including the name and last known whereabouts, to the casework laboratory to be used as an investigative aid in the agency’s case.

How We Do It 

Under the overall direction of the FDDU chief, unit operations effectively cascade across three supervisors and are guided by their respective management of integral program teams. A team of accessioning scientists handle the initial triage of submissions into the unit, inventorying samples, inputting specimen data, and preparing specimens for the beginning stages of testing. A team of laboratory scientists apply robotic processing stations and high-throughput instrumentation to generate DNA typing results from samples within days of sample acceptance. A team of reporting scientists interprets the resulting DNA profiles, approve data for upload, and author correspondence to casework laboratories regarding database associations confirmed between FDDU specimen DNA profiles and corresponding evidentiary DNA profiles.

On a compliance level, the FDDU is supported by teams of DNA technical specialists and DNA program specialists, who have critical responsibilities within the unit for ensuring the quality assurance and quality control of analytical testing, as well as conformance of database operations with established procedural requirements.

Administratively, the unit is supported by a team of management and program analysts with responsibilities for budgetary execution, procurement, inventory, and logistical applications. The unit relies heavily upon an information technology team to support the unit network and overall infrastructure backbone that drives the various operational applications.

From a technology perspective, a DNA Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is critical for the automated development of specimen works lists, controlling the stepwise progression of each sample through the entire analytical process. The FDDU utilizes robotic systems in the laboratory to achieve high-throughput processing, allowing for a day-through-evening uninterrupted workflow without human intervention, permitting maximum operational efficiency. A sophisticated software analysis tool (expert system) permits an automated review of resulting DNA data with a reduced level of scientist intervention, increasing throughput rate while consistently meeting or exceeding required performance measures.  

The Future 

As federal legislation in recent years has increased the number of qualifying offenses for DNA submission, FDDU has expanded its personnel, robotic systems, and technology to meet the demands of its mission.

History of the Unit 

The Federal DNA Database Unit (FDDU) was initially established as the Federal Convicted Offender (FCO) Program in 2000 as a result of enacted federal legislation—specifically, the DNA Backlog Elimination Act of 2000. The FCO Program was originally part of the FBI Laboratory’s mitochondrial casework unit, the DNA Analysis Unit II (DNAAUII); it relocated to the nuclear casework unit, DNA Analysis Unit I (DNAAUI), in 2002. Expanding DNA legislation over the next decade significantly impacted both the scope and direction of the FCO Program in this time-frame. 

On January 28, 2001, federal regulations of the DNA Backlog Elimination Act became effective, authorizing the FCO Program to accept sample submissions. Corresponding uploads of DNA profiles into the National DNA Index System (NDIS) were underway by 2002. The FCO Program incorporated its first significant technological advancements in 2004, including FTA extractions and a computerized Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS)—both became a foundation for the Laboratory’s emerging high-throughput capabilities. This was timely, as the expansion of federal DNA legislation with the Justice for All Act of 2004 effectively widened the scope of authorized submissions to virtually all federal convictions. 

In January 2009, DNA collection procedures were promulgated for further legislation expansions from the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005 and the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. These resulted in today’s collection and submission procedures, which includes federal arrestees as well as non-U.S. citizens detained under the authority of the United States government. The corresponding expansion of submissions over a short time-frame created a backlog of samples within the FCO Program, reaching as many as 300,000 specimens. DNAAUI was restructured into separate casework and databank disciplines in 2009, with the FCO Program becoming its own unit, FDDU. In September 2010, through the concerted efforts of dedicated unit personnel—coupled with enhanced technology solutions—the FDDU successfully eliminated the backlog, uploading more than 300,000 samples to the NDIS, including a record of 80,000 samples in July 2010.

On April 15, 2013, FDDU received its one millionth sample submission. The unit surpassed another major milestone on July 2, 2015, uploading its one millionth sample to NDIS.

Legislation Directing FDDU’s Mission 

DNA Identification Act of 1994

  • Approved date August 25, 1994; effective date September 13, 1994
  • This legislation authorized and allowed the FBI to establish the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and maintain the National DNA Index System (NDIS).
  • The indexes of CODIS were defined as such:
    • Convicted Offender (Legal)
    • Missing Persons
    • Relatives of Missing Persons
    • Unidentified Human (Remains)
    • Forensic Unknown
    • Population Database (if personal identifying information is removed)
  • The legislation required individuals generating DNA profiles to be proficiency tested every 180 days.
  • The legislation mandated that quality assurance standards be released by the Director of the FBI, with recommendations made by a panel called the DNA Advisory Board. Laboratories wishing to participate in the NDIS need to be audited externally every two years against these standards.

DNA Backlog Elimination Act of 2000

  • Amended the DNA Identification Act of 1994
  • Approved date December 19, 2000; effective date June 28, 2001
  • This legislation created the Federal Convicted Offender (FCO) Program, which later became the Federal DNA Database Unit (FDDU). This program (and later unit) was established to produce the DNA profiles from federal and District of Columbia convicted offenders, as well as individuals on federal probation, to be uploaded to the NDIS.
  • This legislation gave the initial list of qualifying offenses for collection of individuals who were convicted of the following crimes: murder, homicide, voluntary manslaughter, sexual abuse or exploitation, peonage and slavery, kidnapping, robbery or burglary, crimes in Indian country, etc.
  • This amended the DNA Identification Act of 1994 that required laboratories to have an expungement policy and procedures for individuals who had their conviction overturned.

U.S.A. Patriot Act of 2001

  • Amended DNA Backlog Elimination Act of 2000
  • Approved October 26, 2001; effective date December 29, 2003
  • This legislation expanded the list of federal qualifying offenses itemized in the DNA Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 to include federal crimes of terrorism and any crime of violence, as well as any attempt or conspiracy to commit a crime of terrorism of violence.

Justice for All Act 2004

  • Amended the DNA Backlog Elimination Act of 2000
  • Approved date October 30, 2004; effective date January 31, 2005
  • This legislation required that laboratories participating in NDIS be accredited. The NDIS Board defined that accreditation must be satisfied by either the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) or Forensic Quality Services (FQS).
  • This expanded the list of federal qualifying offenses itemized in the U.S.A. Patriot Act of 2001 to include any federal felony conviction. 

DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005

  • Amended the DNA Backlog Elimination Act of 2000
  • Approved date January 5, 2006; effective date January 9, 2009
  • This legislation expanded the list of federal qualifying offenses to individuals who are arrested or from non-U.S. persons who are detained under the authority of the United States.
  • This amended the DNA Identification Act of 1994 to require laboratories to have an expungement policy and procedures for individuals who had their charges dropped, not filed, or were acquitted of charges.

Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006

  • Amended DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005
  • Approved date July 27, 2006; effective date January 9, 2009
  • This legislation amended the language of previous legislation to include “individuals who are arrested, facing charges, or convicted and from non-United States persons who are detained under the authority of the United States.”
  • The National Sex Offender Registry was setup and required individuals who registered as sex offenders to submit samples, even retroactively.
  • The FBI is responsible for collection of sex offenders from Indian countries and United States territories.

District of Columbia Law 14-52 (DC Code 22-4151)

  • Effective date November 10, 2001
  • This legislation was the initial list of qualifying District of Columbia offenses for convicted offenders.

District of Columbia Law 18-88 (DC Code 22-4151)

  • Effective date December 10, 2009
  • This legislation amended DC Code 22-4151, Law 14-52, to expand the list of qualifying District of Columbia offenses to include all felons and all misdemeanor sex offenders. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How can I find out if someone is in the database?

Please fill out a Sample Status Request form. The FDDU can mail you the result of your request, or, if you list an e-mail address, e-mail you the result of your request.

How can I order Buccal Collection Kits? How much do they cost?   

Please fill out a Buccal Collection Kit Reorder form. FDDU provides the collection kits free of charge to the agency.

I received a Missing Information Notification. How do I respond?

Please fill out the Missing Information Notification form and fax it to the FDDU at (703) 632-7620. Please feel free to call the main FDDU line at (703) 632-7529 with any questions or concerns.

I received a Rejection Notification. What does this mean?

The sample provided to the FDDU could not be accepted due to the reason listed in the Rejection Notification. Please submit a completely new sample for the offender to the FDDU. If the individual is out of custody, convicted and at a federal BOP, or being monitored by a Probation District, please capture that information on the form you received along with the location of the individual, if applicable, and return the form to the FDDU at fax number (703) 632-7620.

What does it mean when my sample submission gets rejected?

The DNA sample that you submitted could not be accepted by FDDU and will not be uploaded to CODIS for the reason stated in the notification that you received. A new sample and FD-936 form will need to be sent to FDDU for the offender. 

What do I do when my sample submission gets rejected?

A new sample and FD-936 form will need to be sent to FDDU for the offender. This includes the FD-936 form and the DNA collection cards, as well as capturing the fingerprints on the FD-936.

When resubmitting my DNA sample, do I just send in the part of the kit that had the error (just the DNA sample or just the fingerprints)?

No. Please submit an entirely new DNA collection kit as if you were collecting from the offender for the first time, with all the parts provided in the kit. Otherwise, it will be rejected again. This includes the FD-936 form and the DNA collection cards, as well as capturing the fingerprints on the FD-936.

My sample rejection notification says the rejection reason is “No name or unique identifier on DNA sample.” What does that mean?

The DNA collection card was not labeled with the offender’s name. You must pull out the white DNA cards out of the blue collection devices to see that there is a line on the DNA cards labeled “Offender name.” Write the offender’s name here as it is described on the FD-936. The offender name on the DNA collection card and the FD-936 must be the same or the sample will not be accepted by FDDU.

If my sample got rejected for “No name or unique identifier on DNA sample,”

  • Can you just write the name in for me? No. FDDU did not collect the sample and cannot ensure the integrity of the sample as a result. This is the responsibility of the individual who collected the DNA sample of the offender at the time of collection.
  • Can you send it back to me so that I can fill it in? No. FDDU cannot return samples to agencies and/or collectors for this purpose.
  • “I can assure you that was the only kit I did that day and that DNA sample belongs to that individual.” FDDU cannot ensure the integrity of the sample that is not properly labeled because we did not collect it. It is imperative that DNA collection cards are properly labeled with the offender’s name and that this is the same as that captured on the FD-936. This should be performed by the collector during the time of collection. Without this information, FDDU cannot be certain which offender the sample might have come from.

What do I do if the individual is no longer in my custody or at my facility?

If this individual is awaiting trial, you may collect the sample at a later date. If this individual is under someone else’s custody, is at a BOP facility, or has been released from federal custody, capture this information about the offender’s status on the rejection notice and fax it to FDDU at (703) 632-7620.

If I am from a BOP and/or Probation District, how do I fill out the top of the FD-936 form with the revision date 01-06-2009?

Please put your BOP facility code and DNA Sequence Number or Probation District code only if the offender is a convicted offender. If the offender is pre-trial and facing criminal charges, also check the Federal Arresting Agency box because you are also acting as the arresting agency in this case. Only check the Federal Detaining Agency box if the offender is a non-United States person and being detained under the authority of the U.S. but not facing any criminal charges.

If I am using the FD-936 form with revision date 01-06-2009, which box do I check if the offender is facing criminal and immigration charges?

Please check the Federal Arresting Agency box.

Can I use a stamp or sticker for the Submitting Agency Contact Information section?

Yes, but be sure that the stamp or sticker produces information that is readable.

Can I make copies of the FD-936 in order to pre-fill out the forms?

No. It is imperative to fill out the FD-936 form with the offender’s information during the time of collection to ensure incorrect information is not transcribed, samples are not linked incorrectly to a FD-936 from a different offender than was sampled, or vice versa. It is important that the FD-936 form is filled out legibly with black or blue ink and within the boxes so it can be interpreted by our scanning system. The new buccal collection kits have barcodes on the collection devices and the FD-936 form specific to each kit. It is imperative that these components not be intermixed between kits. When the kit is returned to FDDU, the barcodes on the collection devices must match those on the FD-936 or the sample will be rejected.

I took the sample for casework comparison but used your kit and sent it to you. Can I get the sample back? What are my options?

FDDU cannot return your sample to the submitting agency, as submissions to the unit are property of the FDDU. Samples submitted to FDDU are not used for casework processing because they do not possess a chain of custody with them, making them inadmissible in court. Because of this, FDDU samples cannot be transferred to the casework unit for processing as the Rules of Evidence were not properly followed.   

I am from a state facility and I received a letter from BOP telling me to collect DNA from several individuals. They have provided your collection kit but I do not know what to do.

Please call the POC from BOP that sent you the letter and get the appropriate BOP Facility Code and DNA Sequence number for the offenders to be sampled so that it can be provided on the FD-936 form. Please see the Buccal Collection Kit Information that provides information on how the collection kit is utilized. Please call us with any questions on the FDDU main line at (703) 632-7529.

What are the main mistakes that people make, and how can I avoid them?

  1. Please make sure to put the offender’s name on the DNA collection card as it is written on the FD-936 form. You will have to remove the DNA collection card from the blue collection device to be able to write the offender’s name. For a thorough description on how to properly utilize the Buccal Collection kit, see the Buccal Collection Kit Information document.
  2. Be sure to notate in section 4 of the FD-936 form with revision date 08-05-2011 the qualifying reason for DNA collection. If using the FD-936 form with revision date 01-06-2009, if the offender is facing criminal charges, please check the Federal Arresting Agency box, and if the offender is a non-U.S. person facing immigration charges or being federally detained, please check the Federal Detaining Agency box. 
  3. Please properly seal the outside of the return envelope of the collection kit. It is imperative that the seal is completely closed.
  4. Please provide all components of the kit, including the FD-936 (filled out properly), the DNA collection cards properly labeled with offender’s name as they appear on the FD-936, and fingerprints captured on the FD-936 from the right and left index finger of the offender.

Links 

Contact Information 

For further information, please contact FDDU by e-mail at fddu@ic.fbi.gov, or alternatively:

  • By phone - (703) 632-7529
  • By fax - (703) 632-7620 
  • By mail - Federal DNA Database Unit, 2501 Investigation Parkway, Quantico, VA 22135