Attorney General Issues Directive to Law Enforcement Regarding Use of Blood Samples from Newborn Screening Program

For Immediate Release: June 20, 2024

Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General

For Further Information:

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Michael Symons
OAGpress@njoag.gov

AG Directive 2024-03

TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced today that he has issued a Directive to law enforcement executives and county prosecutors establishing new limits on attempts to obtain newborn bloodspot information in connection with criminal investigations.

Under Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive No. 2024-03, new approval requirements have been put in place going forward for the rare instances in which law enforcement seeks to obtain newborn bloodspot information. Agencies will have to submit written requests for approval from the director of the state Division of Criminal Justice explaining why an exceptional circumstance exists, and the requests will need to be supported by specified forms of legal process.

State law establishing the Newborn Screening Program requires that every baby born in New Jersey must have a bloodspot screen taken within 48 hours of their birth, to test for 61 illnesses and congenital disorders that can cause serious health problems or even death. The program provides universal access to screening for all babies, including those who otherwise might not have sufficient access to care.

“The Newborn Screening Program is an important public health program – and it is crucial for the success of the program that its information is kept private,” said Attorney General Platkin. “Today’s Directive adds new limits to ensure law enforcement agencies only seek such information in genuinely exceptional circumstances.”

“Today’s Directive demonstrates the Division of Criminal Justice’s commitment to using law enforcement tools in a manner that ensures the public trust,” said J. Stephen Ferketic, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Under the Directive, stringent protocols will ensure that this information is only sought when appropriate and necessary.”

Going forward, any documentary records or physical bloodspots can be obtained from the Newborn Screening Program only through a court-issued Dyal subpoena for medical records, rather than a grand jury subpoena; a search warrant based on probable cause; or an administrative subpoena (or appropriate court process) issued in a missing-persons or unidentified-body case.

The Directive takes effect immediately.

Separately, the Department of Health today announced changes to its retention policy for newborn bloodspots.  Under the new policy, the Department will retain bloodspots linked to a child’s identifying information for only two years, unless the parent or guardian opts for a greater or lesser retention period. The new policy also contains other limitations on the use and retention of newborn bloodspots, including a restriction on law enforcement access consistent with the Attorney General’s new Directive.

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