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Genetic Privacy Violations Punishable by Law in Florida

A new law went into effect on October 1, 2021, known as Florida’s Protecting DNA Privacy Act by making unlawful use of DNA a crime. Here’s what you should know.

Genetic Privacy

Under the Protecting DNA Privacy Act, anyone responsible for collecting and/or storing DNA information protects the donor’s privacy.

DNA collection can happen for many reasons:

  • Doctors may inadvertently collect DNA while testing for diseases or terminal conditions
  • DNA kits for ancestry tracing
  • Biometric tracing for immigrants

However DNA is acquired, anyone involved with the process is responsible for protecting that information. Unless the DNA donor gives express, written consent to share their genetic information with another party, sending that information is against the law.

Medical diagnoses and treatments are the only exceptions to this rule. In a medical setting, test results are often shared between doctors to ensure that each member of the patient’s care team is up to date on test results. This also helps specialists get a picture of the patient’s overall health to make a diagnosis.

However, outside of a medical setting, collecting or selling genetic data is illegal in Florida.

Consent

As mentioned previously, express consent must be given prior to DNA collection or testing. The Act defines express consent as documented consent by the individual or their guardian along with affirmative action demonstrating their agreement to participate in DNA sampling and testing.

Essentially, this means that before a doctor can collect DNA, the patient must give their consent by signing legally binding documents. The affirmative action may be a series of consultations or another process, but both consent and action need to happen before DNA collection.

Proper Collection and Use

The following are situations in which DNA sampling is legal and protected:

  • Criminal prosecution and legal processes
  • Medical treatment
  • Research subject to federal law under HIPAA

Penalties

Anyone who unlawfully collects and/or shares genetic information without express consent may be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. Misdemeanors in this class are the most severe charges before the felony class. These crimes are generally punishable by up to one year in jail and fines up to $1,000.

Sharing DNA test results without consent is a third-degree felony. These crimes may result in up to five years in prison with five years of probation. The judge may also require the offender to pay a $5,000 fine and possible restitution to the victim.

The sale or transfer of genetic samples without express consent is a second-degree felony. Second-degree felonies are punishable by up to 15 years in prison with 15 years on probation and a $10,000 fine.

It’s important to note that not only do criminal charges have long-lasting implications beyond the sentence, but felonies could result in license removal for medical professionals and a permanent inability to qualify for employment.

These are very serious crimes that the Governor and District Attorney are committed to punishing to the full extent of the law. If you have been accused of a crime, contact an attorney immediately.

The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A. has the knowledge and experience you need to protect your future.

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