DNA Fingerprinting In Criminal Investigation
The year 1987 witnessed many significant events in both science and technology. One of the remarkable developments in science was the first time application of the DNA profiling technique in a criminal investigation. The successful conviction of a Florida rapist in November 6, 1987 proved a turning point in the detection and prosecution of crime because of DNA fingerprinting. For about 26 years now, this technology has evolved to play a significant role in forensic science, criminology, and parental testing.
According to Dufour and Landry (2008), the DNA technology enables scientists to examine and identify the minute biological material between two individuals. This technology provides researchers with critical information to enable the making of sound conclusions of identity or non-identity (p. 15). These biological materials are referred to as Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) and are perceived to contain genetic information that act as the blueprint for the human body. Although discovered in 1984 by Professor Jeffreys, DNA fingerprinting technology was first used in the United States in a criminal investigation involving rape victims in 1987 (Prainsack 52). Over the years, this technology has proved very useful in numerous landmark cases, including the O.J. Simpson Murder trial in 1995 and the bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998.
Since the development of the finger profiling technology, criminal investigations involving biological evidence have taken up much more accurate method. It can be necessary to note that, prior to the adoption of DNA fingerprinting, law enforcement relied on using blood type as the main discriminatory piece of evidence to analyze crime scenes (Publishers Weekly 44). This process proved inadequate in providing critical information that could better confirm or exclude a suspect in a criminal case and hence could sometimes easily lead the investigation in the wrong direction (Bieber 1316). With DNA profiling, it has been made possible to collect various biological samples, including hair, skin, or bodily fluids at a crime scene. This has helped in the fast and accurate identification of suspected perpetrators and exoneration of innocent individuals, as well.
Furthermore, the reliability of DNA profiling in a criminal investigation makes it a milestone development in the fight against serious crimes such as murder, terrorism, rape, robbery, to name a few. This is because it has not only made it easy to identify individuals involved in crimes, but also provides an efficient system to deter such crimes in the future (Millard 1385). For instance, CODIS (the combined data Index System) is the national database designed to document the DNA fingerprints of different criminals across the country. This database is divided into two individual indexes; the first index provides the DNA profiles of convicted felons who committed murder, sex crimes, or other violent crimes. The second index is made up of DNA profiles, which are collected as evidence at places where crime occur to aid in the investigation. It is necessary to mention that, prior to 1987, it was very difficult for federal agencies and law enforcement officers to collaborate effectively in addressing critical security issues with the lack of adequate information (Roberts and Taupin 5). Currently, it takes a few minutes to know the identity of a given DNA sample because of the advanced automation process, which enables faster marching of DNA profile from different individuals. With the continued utilization of CODIS in local, state and federal investigations, this database consist a large amount of DNA information―making it the largest bio-information database worldwide (Dufour and Landry 16).
The striking importance of this technology is based on how it not only helps convict offenders of crimes but also assist to exonerate the innocent. Since the development of DNA fingerprinting, it has become possible to reevaluate old criminal cases―a move that has surprisingly led to the release of some individuals from jails previously charged with crimes they had not committed (Walsh 17). Furthermore, the use of DNA profiling has also facilitated new development in policing, crime detection, and other police investigations. It is noted that this new technology has also enhanced the conventional investigative methods of police and has been credited for increased efficiency, speed, and accuracy of criminal investigations in the country (State Legislatures 11). For instance, the traditional methods of investigation, which are often more tedious, expensive and slow compared to the ‘intelligence-led’ policing, introduced through DNA profiling. Therefore, looking at the policing demand and public expectations in the modern society, DNA profiling offer a powerful resource than can intrinsically help to improve safety and security in crime-stricken neighborhoods (Lyons 17)
Since its first application in 1987, DNA profiling method has proved significant in the criminal investigation in the United States. The use of DNA fingerprints can provide vital evidence that can help in crime investigation and apprehension of suspected persons. There are many new stories highlighting the successful use of DNA to address crimes such as sexual assault and murder. However, while this technology has revolutionized the United States criminal justice system, numerous challenges such as the presence of the large amount of backlog of unanalyzed DNA samples, lack of proper training and resources, privacy and human rights issues hinder its full potentiality. DNA fingerprinting remains a promising technique that can help the U.S. criminal justice system to uphold accuracy and fairness.
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