This website is for use by legal professionals (lawyers and law practices) only. If the information is used incorrectly, you could risk losing money or your legal rights. If you are a member of the public looking for free advice about your legal problems please visit legalaid.vic.gov.au, or contact our Legal Help advice line on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. 

If you decide to use or rely on the information or make decisions based on the information in this website (which VLA does not recommend) VLA is not liable to you or any third party in any way for any loss, damage, costs or expenses you or they may suffer or incur as a result.

DNA database

Information that explains what DNA is and when it is used.

What is DNA?

DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid is found in the nucleus of all cells of the body. Apart from identical twins, each person has their own unique sequence of DNA strands and it is this pattern that gives each person their inheritable characteristics.

DNA profiling is done by comparing DNA that has been extracted from evidence left at a crime scene with the DNA extracted from a forensic sample (usually) from a suspect.

DNA is most commonly extracted from samples of skin, hair, blood and body fluid such as semen, saliva etc.

Trace DNA

Recently scientists have discovered that it is possible to extract DNA from objects that have come into contact with a person's skin. This is referred to as trace DNA.

Test results

Results of DNA tests will never say conclusively that the sample at a crime scene belongs to that of a suspected person, however it may assert for example that the DNA found on a knife was 98 million times more likely to have come from the donor than from anyone else from the Caucasian population.

DNA databases

If a person:

  • is suspected of committing an indictable offence
  • has been found guilty of a forensic sample offence or
  • is found not guilty of a forensic sample offence due to mental impairment
  • has had a DNA profile sample taken (that has not been destroyed)
  • who is an adult volunteers to provide a forensic sample

their forensic details may be added to the Victorian and/or Commonwealth DNA databases.

See s. 464ZFD—Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Permissible use of DNA database information

There are DNA databases operating under both Victorian and Commonwealth laws. The Commonwealth database is a national database, called the National Criminal Investigation DNA Database (NCIDD) which is managed by the Australian Crime Commission. This Commonwealth database is designed to facilitate the matching of DNA profiles across the states and territories. The use of data within these databases is governed by the Victorian and Commonwealth Crimes Acts.

Whether information is able to be accessed from a DNA database depends on what sample is to be matched and the category of person whose DNA sample is to be profiled from the database.

Each of these databases contain separate indexes. For example, the Commonwealth database has indexes for: Crime scene, suspects, volunteers, serious offenders, missing persons and unknown deceased persons. Each Act includes a table to indicate which indexes may be matched with other indexes.

Note: If the suspect is found not guilty, or if they are not charged, or if the charge is not proceeded with, their forensic details must be removed from the database.

For example if the person has given their sample voluntarily and for a limited purpose, their samples can only be tested where forensic profilers are trying identify a body that police suspect may be that of a missing person (usually a relative of the volunteer).A person may also voluntarily give a DNA sample to rule them out of an investigation at a crime scene (for example if they were the home owner at a burglary).

See ss. 464(2),Table in s.f 464ZGI Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and s. 23YDAF—Crimes Act 1914 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

Offences for misuse of DNA information

It is an offence to:

  • supply or cause to be supplied, or
  • intend to supply or recklessly supply

forensic material to a person for analysis with the purpose of DNA profiling for inclusion on a DNA database.

It is also an offence to:

  • unlawfully access information on DNA database
  • cause matching of DNA that is not permitted
  • intend to match or is reckless in matching information.

Note: The matching offences do not apply to person who causes matching that is not permitted—but are involved in administration of database system.

Penalties

Maximum penalty of 1 year imprisonment or 120 penalty units

Similar offences and penalties apply for misuse of the Commonwealth database.

See s. 464ZGH—Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)

  • s. 464(2)—defines DNA database, DNA Database system and Australian Crime Commission, DNA profile sample
  • s. 464ZFD—Victorian DNA database
  • s. 464ZGB—samples given voluntarily
  • s. 464ZGG—supply of forensic material for DNA database
    • s. 464ZGG(1)—defines excluded forensic material and prohibited analysis
  • s. 464ZGH—use of information on Victorian DNA database
  • s. 464ZGI—permissible matching of DNA profiles
  • s. 464ZGJ—recording, retention and removal of identifying information on DNA database

See Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Crimes Act 1914 (Cth)

  • Part 1D—Forensic procedures
  • s. 23YDAF—permissible matching of DNA profiles

See Crimes Act 1914 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

References

Victoria Police

See Victoria Police—Forensic Services(opens in a new window).

National Forensic Science Technology Center

This American site has information to explain various kinds of forensic procedures, including DNA sampling.

See National Forensic Science Technology Center—A Simplified Guide to Forensic Science(opens in a new window).

Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC)

There is information about the creation and maintenance of the commonwealth DNA database, extracted from the ALRC report, Essentially Yours: The protection of human genetic information in Australia (ALRC report 96)

See Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC)—DNA database systems (ALRC report 96)(opens in a new window).

Updated