The introduction of DNA usage as evidence has had a profound impact within the field of Criminal Justice in solving past and present criminal investigations, acting as a silent and infallible witness. Author Gregg Barak, Battleground Criminal Justice, explains it was Sir Alec Jeffries, a professor at the University of Leicester who first learned about the unique qualities of DNA that make it possible to identify an individual through biological samples, such as hair, saliva, skin tissues, and semen. It was Jeffries who “coined the term DNA Fingerprinting” (Barak. 2007. p. 195).
As is noted in the article The Microscopic Slide – DNA in Criminal Investigations, preserved evidence collected by investigators can be used “years after the commission of a crime. Efforts by law enforcement officers and forensic pathologists to comb crime scenes for possible DNA material remain crucial to solving cases” (Smialek. Westeveer. Word. 2000. p. 2. 4). Law enforcement forensic investigators are able to obtain DNA samples from the smallest of items left at a crime scene, such as a strand of hair on a victim, a cigarette dropped with saliva evidence on the butt, or an empty can or bottle the criminal drank from.
Smialek, Westeveer and Word note that strict rules must be adhered to for DNA samples to be admissible at a future time “as with any evidence, agencies must maintain a proper chain of custody when handling DNA material” (2000. 7). It is also imperative that the DNA sample is protected from any type of contamination and degradation both during collection and in storage. Smialek, Westeveer and Word say that today’s techniques are highly susceptible to disqualification as evidence if not pure.
The authors state that “today’s laboratories use the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique to replicate DNA… Contamination occurs when the evidence comes in contact with another individual’s body fluids through actions, such as sneezing, coughing, or touching” (Smialek. Westeveer. Word. 2000 . p. 1. . 5). Any contact with these outside agents would render the DNA profile obtained essentially useless. The successful use of DNA analysis to solve crimes both old and new, has led to the creation of linked DNA databases.
The UK and The United States both have national DNA databases. Barak states “The National DNA Database Index System (NDIS) was launched under the authority of the DNA identification Act of 1994″(Barak. 2007. p. 197). This sophisticated database runs computer generated software programs capable of rapidly scanning and comparing thousands of suspects DNA samples. It was a leap into the future for the world of forensics and criminal justice. Through the use of these databases many more cases are solved, and criminals apprehended.
As author Richard Willing, Courts Conflict on Legality of New Crime-Fighting Methods, says “Crime labs in New York have matched DNA taken from at least 2,200 crime suspects or individuals of interest in an investigation to more than four dozen unrelated crimes committed later” (Willing. 2007. 3). Barak says the uses of DNA have expanded in Law Enforcement and criminal justice, with the utilization of “Dragnets or sweeps” (Barak. 2007. 197). This involves “Requesting a group of individuals who fit a general description of the suspect to voluntarily provide a DNA sample for profile analysis in order to exclude themselves as suspects” (Barak. 2007. p. 197).
Willing tells of another case involving man who was acquitted of rape in 1997, who’s DNA was added to the national database. Willing says that “Four years later, Midgley’s DNA was matched to an unrelated case — the sexual assault and abduction of a 15-year-old schoolgirl. Midgley was convicted of rape” (Willing. 2007. 1). Again and again DNA proves to be a valuable manpower and time saver for criminal justice investigative purposes. There is some controversy over the collection procedures of DNA, and many of the DNA searches and comparisons are operated from storage “databases that exist in a legal gray area.
Most states neither authorize nor forbid them, says Lisa Hurst, who maintains the website dnaresource. com for Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs, a Tacoma, Wash. , firm” (Willing. 2007. . 12). Through the use of the NDIS, and private DNA collection and analysis operations, untold hours are saved in active investigations, since law enforcement officials are able to quickly run suspects samples for priors as well as possible connections to unsolved criminal cases. This alone is an amazing revolution within the field of criminal justice and law enforcement.
It may also be hoped that the knowledge of how DNA evidence is stored, preserved and easily accessible in convenient databases will someday be counted as possessing a deterrent effect on future criminal activity. References: Barak, G. (2007). Battleground: Criminal Justice, Edition: illustrated, Published by Greenwood Publishing Group. Smialek, J. E. . Westeveer, A. E. & Word, C. (2000). The Microscopic Slide – DNA in Criminal Investigations. The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Nov. 2000. Retrieved 17 May 2009 from; http://findarticles.
com/p/articles/mi_m2194/is_11_69/ai_68660197/pg_2/? tag=content;col1 .. Willing, R. (2007). Courts Conflict On Legality Of New Crime-Fighting Methods. USA Today, Pg. 08, Retrieved 17May 2009 from; http://wf2dnvr11. webfeat. org/gQa5M11123/url=http:// http://wf2dnvr11. webfeat. org/gQa5M11123/url=http://web. ebsco host. web. ebscohost. com/ehost/detail? vid=3&hid=104&sid=3591bedd-3449-4a72-bbc5- 24c5cc84c40e %40sessionmgr3&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ %3d%3d #db= f5h&AN = J0E133151071707#db=f5h&AN=J0E133151071707 .