Germany's Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe decided on Thursday that when investigators encounter DNA evidence from mass genetic testing that suggests a relationship with the perpetrator, they must look the other way.
The ruling came in response to a rape case from 2010.
The accused, a now 19-year-old man from Dörpen in the state of Lower Saxony, was sentenced to a five-year prison term in November 2011 for the rape of a 27-year-old woman in 2010. The defendant was 16 years old at the time.
The police found numerous traces of DNA on the clothes of the woman but could not identify their source. The investigating authorities finally called for voluntary mass genetic testing and about 2,400 adult males volunteered samples.
The DNA from the woman's clothes closely matched two of the samples obtained as the DNA came from relatives of the offender. Investigators subsequently ordered a DNA sample from the teenager.
After receiving a five-year prison sentence the defendant submitted an appeal on the grounds that the genes of his relatives should not have been used as evidence against him.
However, since the new court ruling only applies to future cases, the defendant's five-year sentence has been upheld.
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