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Will trace DNA be the new tool in violent crimes investigations?

Will trace DNA be the new tool in violent crimes investigations?

There are certain crimes in St. Paul that are particularly severe, that come with years in prison, heavy fines and potentially life behind bars. Many of these most serious charges stem from violent crimes, but because of the serious nature of a conviction, it is important that individuals only be convicted with sufficient, credible evidence. If prosecutors or judges allow shoddy evidence to reach the jury, an innocent person could be sent to prison.

One of the new pieces of technology that is raising eyebrows across the country is touch or trace DNA. Instead of using fingerprint analysis to determine who was holding or fired a gun, police can swab the gun for things like skin cells, oil glands and other microscopic pieces of DNA. Although this may be helpful in some cases, it may just throw unfair suspicion on suspects in other cases.

One of the reasons why this technology is so dangerous is because it only needs minimal amounts of DNA before determining who was holding the gun. This means that if a gun was used to commit a crime and then an innocent person unwittingly touched it later, he or she could be charged with a violent crime. It may be that individuals wouldn’t even need to touch the gun to potentially get their DNA on the weapon. When police are swabbing the gun, they must wear respirator masks to prevent contamination.

Being sent to prison for the rest of your life is incredibly serious, and it is vital that police and prosecutors are not allowed to introduce misleading, incomplete or ambiguous evidence, or there is a real risk that you will be wrongfully convicted.

Source: The Oregonian, “Portland police want to tap into DNA advances to get guns, gang members off street,” Maxine Bernstein, July 9, 2013

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