DNA is the most powerful tool available for identification in forensic investigations. Because of its ability to link physical evidence found at a crime scene to a single person, it is often referred to as a “digital fingerprint.” This method is so precise that it can ensure pinpoint accuracy, down to one in a billion. And, unlike fingerprints, which can only be found if a suspect touches something, DNA exists in every cell of the human body, from hair and blood to skin and tears, and can be shed or deposited while committing a crime. That means it is often the only means for accurate identification.
DNA databases make it possible for law enforcement crime laboratories to electronically search and compare collected DNA profiles to crime scene evidence. In the United States, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) links all local, state, and national databases and contains more than 5 million records. Currently, legislation exists on the federal level and in 29 states, enabling investigators to collect DNA upon arrest for certain felony crimes.
While some have raised concerns about the privacy of rights of persons accused of serious crimes, DNA testing of arrestees can actually protect civil liberties. Moreover, crime laboratories and investigators would have no need of such predictive health information as it is of no value in a criminal investigation. Through a forensic DNA profile, it is impossible to obtain medical information and genetic indicators. Forensic analysts only analyze the 13 markers that make identification possible. And, unlike fingerprints, the DNA profile is stored in CODIS as a numeric file (see sample profile above), with absolutely no access to personal information (not even the person's name) or criminal background. Crime scene evidence matching this profile will lead police to the right suspect, regardless of race or economic status, thereby reducing the incidence of racial profiling and other objectionable means of developing suspects.
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