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The Legal And Social Issues Surrounding Dna Databanking

1914 words - 8 pages

Advances in Science and Genetic Research have significantly impacted the criminal justice system. With the development of programs aimed at utilizing biological or genetic samples collected from potential suspects of a crime, investigators are able to compare the samples against samples collected from the crime scene. One of the most widely-known programs, the Combined Deoxyribonucleic Acid Index System (CODIS), was developed as a law enforcement resource to compare new samples of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) against the registered DNA samples of “convicted offenders, unsolved crime scene evidence, and missing persons across local, State, and national databases” (Office of Justice Programs, 2011). Scientific and government research identifies the program’s efficacy is a result of the increasing number of criminal case closures from cross-referencing suspect DNA samples against samples in the DNA database. Alternately, there is equal concern for the efficiency and effectiveness of utilizing the CODIS program in criminal investigations, based on the overwhelming backlog of collected and unregistered samples.
Since Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) is the building block of all genetic material and its structure is unique and unchanging, it is a highly accurate method of identifying the origin, and the originator, of unknown DNA samples (National Human Genome Institute, 2011). DNA profiles are extracted from genetic and biological samples collected from crime scenes and potential suspects, and then compared against DNA profiles registered in CODIS. While attempting to determine the donor of the sample, a probability match percentage is generated. This technique is known as DNA fingerprinting. According to Explore Forensics, an independent Forensic organization, DNA fingerprinting is “ is applied to the scientific process whereby samples of DNA are collected, collated and used to match other samples of DNA, which may have been found at the scene of a crime”(Explore Forensics, 2011). DNA fingerprinting results are highly accurate, so if the match percentage is high enough, the findings can be used as evidentiary support in criminal proceedings.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations launched CODIS in 1990 as a pilot project. Based on the pilot study’s success and promise, CODIS eventually grew to include the participation of “over 180 [US] public law enforcement laboratories…[and] more than 60 more than 60 law enforcement laboratories in over 30 countries”(“CODIS brochure, 2011). The collaborative effort and success of the pilot study led to an International initiative to connect disparate DNA databases through a single program interface. With the FBI’s noted success, the CODIS program grew as the single solution for accessing the sample databases. Due to the increasing number of registered DNA profiles, a method for limiting searches based on a categorical designation was implemented. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, these categories, or...

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