Criminal Procedure

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  • Topic: Combined DNA Index System, DNA profiling, DNA
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  • Published : February 23, 2013
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Modern Technological Advances and their use in Criminal Investigations

Angela Chase, Juan Matos and Terrence Priester

University of Phoenix

Modern Technological Advances and their use in Criminal Investigations

From the inception of the United States criminal justice system, extreme advancements have been made in the field of law enforcement. Particularly in today’s society, modern technological advances such as DNA profiling, fingerprinting, cameras, and wiretappinghave brought about new methods to aid in crime solving.

Just two decades ago citizens in this country may have bought into the term “the perfect crime”, a crime that was so ingenious police would never be able to find a suspect. Many crimes were impossible to solve and sat unsolved for years. In today’s times, however, much has changed and with the advances in science and technology, the criminal justice system is better than ever, at catching, monitoring and convicting criminals. One form of criminal identification procedure that has become increasingly popular is DNA analysis. To identify an individual, scientists focus on 13 DNA loci and from that a DNA profile, or DNA fingerprint, is created. The reason this method is so successful is that the chances of two people have the same DNA profile are extremely rare. With DNA testing there are no mistakes. Identifying potential suspects, exonerating wrongly accused persons, identifying crime and catastrophe victims, and establishing paternity or familial relationships are just a few ways in which this technique is used (U.S. Dept. of Energy, 2009). DNA can be used to accurately identify criminals when biological evidence is left at the scene of a crime. DNA testing has helped solve cold cases that for years were thought impossible to crack. Keeping a data bank of DNA has made it easier to identify suspects in numerous crimes, particularly because more serious crimes often are committed by repeat offenders, a data bank very similar to the IAFIS. These data banks also help to clear innocent people who have been wrongfully incarcerated. In 1990, the FBI established a database of genetic profiles containing information of convicted offenders and unsolved crimes. In October 1998, they put into operation a computerized forensic database of DNA profiles of those who have committed serious crimes such as murder, abuses against children, and rape. This database, known as CODIS, or Combined DNA Index System, also contains information about unknown offenders. CODIS aids law enforcement agencies by producing leads from biological evidence recovered from the crime scene (Tapscott, 2006). Information contained in this database quickly identifies matches between stored profiles and evidence found at the scene of a crime. Today, every state requires the DNA of serious offenders be entered into the system. By doing this, police in various areas can share information they have gathered and coordinate investigations. These databases pose no disadvantages not only do they help victims of crime, but they also help to exonerate those who are innocent and have been wrongfully convicted. The resources provided by this database have helped solve numerous cases that otherwise would have gone unsolved and helps to conclusively determine one’s participation in a crime. On the other hand, for those who have been arrested and are found to be innocent prior to incarceration, the retention of their DNA is thought by many to be unfair because it should not rightfully be in the database in the first place. This is of particular concern because occasionally those who have similar DNA profiles may have been at the scene of a crime at an earlier time and therefore, are considered a suspect when they should not be. Furthermore, there exists the possibility that one may “plant” DNA evidence at the scene of a crime to make it appear as if another has committed a crime. This is something that is...
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