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DNA and its Impacts on Investigations

DNA described in full terms as the deoxyribonucleic acid has been defined by scientist as the primary block that makes up the genetic system of an individual. It has all the instructions and information regarding a person and is unique in every individual. Scientists have also confirmed that similar DNA runs through an individual’s body as it is situated in every cell. Its presence in every cell helps in the individual differentiation through unique physical features like the colour of skin, the hair and eyes (Roberts, Taupin, and Raymond).

Having mentioned that DNA is located on the entire body of an individual, it is worth noting that body fluids like sweat, blood, semen, urine, saliva and sometimes mucus are the most commonly analysed for DNA tests. Such fluids provide very accurate results on DNA tests conducted during criminal investigations. This said, in a normal crime scene, there are various sources that could be investigated to derive DNA evidence of the crime offenders such as the fingernails, clothes, and furniture touched, any weapons like guns used in committing the crime, bite marks or even pieces of glass. The dental structure has also served as strong DNA evidence in most criminal cases (Connors, Lundregan, and et al).

The collection of these DNA evidence is done, not just by any other person at the scene of crime but highly trained professionals who are keen in handling the evidence and offer protection from any possible damages. In some cases though, family members or witnesses who are present at the scene of crime have collected DNA that has later been used to resolve crime mysteries. In some sexual assault cases or rape, hospitals and healthcare facilities have played a critical role in providing DNA evidence from the victims involved. This is also done by well trained medical professionals who specialize in such cases.

It is possible for the collected DNA evidence to get damaged through contamination once it gets into contact with another individual’s DNA, or get heated through exposure to hot environmental conditions. Bacterial infections also contaminate the evidence. These trained investigators usually employ very sensitive measures in the process of evidence collection to avoid compromise such as the wearing of gloves, using envelopes and paper bags for storage rather than plastic bags that retain moisture resulting to evidence damage. They avoid direct exposure of the DNA evidence to sunlight and also avoid sneezing or coughing towards the collected DNA evidence (Lawyers).

The discovery of using DNA evidence has transformed the manner in which criminal cases are handled and prosecuted across the globe. In fact, a professor from George Washington, Department of Forensic Sciences believes that, ‘The introduction of DNA profiling has revolutionized forensic science and the criminal justice system. DNA technology has given police and the courts a means of identifying the perpetrators of rapes and murders with a very high degree of confidence’’ (Connors, Lundregan, and et al).

Until 1960s, the absorption elution, the Lattes tests and the absorption-inhibition were the common methods used to conduct genetic analysis of body fluids and blood during crime cases. Other methods became available with time but had shortcomings of failing to deliver accurate results as the genetic marker frequently deteriorated (Lawyers).

The use of DNA in investigating crimes was considered as a breakthrough. This is because DNA databases of the State and federal government have significantly solved criminal mysteries and reduced the chances of having the wrong people convicted. DNA evidence is applied to solve criminal cases in two most common ways. These are in cases where the victims are known and when the suspects are unknown. In cases involving known criminal offenders, the DNA evidence is collected and compared to other biological evidences established at the crime scenes to determine whether there is a match. The outcome greatly determines the crime status of the victim involved (Connors, Lundregan, and et al).

In the event that a suspect is unknown, investigators usually analyze the biological DNA evidence extracted from the scenes of crime. This evidence is then compared to those in the DNA database in order to identify the original crime perpetrators. This system has successfully been used to trace and track crime offenders who have been linked to other crimes in the past. Investigators have attested to the fact that DNA evidence profiling has been used to correcting past injustices through the exoneration of suspects who were wrongly accused. DNA evidences have helped release those who were wrongly imprisoned.

Investigative analyses are always very costly and tedious in terms of time consumption. The use of DNA evidence has been instrumental in the provision of critical information to the police and the judiciary team that may eventually save time and resources that would otherwise be invested elsewhere.  Victims in this case are also saved from the emotional burden of proof needed at the trial stage of the crime cases. Police officers today can utilize resources effectively execute arrests on individuals after 72hours of laboratory DNA analysis. Roberts and et al observe that, ‘The whole investigative process can be shortened by the influence of such analysis on the direction of an investigation, by providing information that can be used to enhance conventional interrogative strategies and by limiting the contesting of the evidence in court’’(Roberts, Taupin, and Raymond).

The development in technology has had a major contribution towards the use of DNA evidence today. Modern technologies can enable investigators to analyze DNA evidences that were deemed previously as inconceivable. Investigators are now able to retrieve from the archives biological sources such as teeth, saliva, bones and hair for re-examination using advanced testing technological instruments. Even tiny and degraded specimen with DNA components can now be tested (Lawyers).  

DNA evidences also enable crime investigators to build up leads towards active cases and also open older case files to work on investigative cases that were unresolved. Competent teams comprising forensic scientists and investigators can examine collected DNA evidences, for other cases to connect to totally different crimes using advanced technologies to track original crimes (James).

In conclusion, it is clear that using DNA evidence in investigating crimes has helped in the identification of actual criminal offenders and exonerated wrongly accused persons who would otherwise be in jails. DNA evidence is thus one of the major breakthroughs of our times in solving criminal mysteries.

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