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Faster DNA testing raising concern in criminal investigations

On Behalf of | Feb 3, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

As technology advances, so do the techniques used to investigate crimes. And the ability to test DNA faster is one of the primary techniques law enforcement and prosecutors want to improve upon.

However, some of these innovations are causing alarm around the nation, such as the new Rapid DNA tool.

Skepticism over Rapid DNA and the potential violation of rights

Rapid DNA is a new device that can analyze blood, saliva or other biological substances in around 90 minutes. This device, and others like it, currently involve some controversy, since:

  • On one hand, faster DNA testing could help individuals wrongly accused of a crime to avoid the stress of facing charges and going to court; but
  • On the other hand, many officials around the nation worry that police would abuse the power the device brings. They state police might violate individuals’ rights and test their DNA without their consent. They also worry police might rely too much on the fast results that they would mishandle important evidence.

Many people also still question how effective these devices are, since there have been cases of incorrect analyses, especially with more than one DNA sample.

Is Rapid DNA in use in Kentucky?

The Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratory System uses Rapid DNA devices, but they are not yet relying solely on the results from these devices. This is mostly because:

  • Forensic scientists want to ensure the devices work properly; and
  • It is a felony in Kentucky to use a complete DNA sample from a crime scene, which is what Rapid DNA devices often use.

It might be some time before the use of Rapid DNA devices is widespread. However, individuals should understand their rights now to protect themselves in the event these devices become commonplace in the future.

Remember: DNA is still circumstantial evidence

Even though Kentuckians should make sure they understand their rights when faced with criminal charges, they should not necessarily worry about Rapid DNA devices. There are a few reasons for this, including:

  • If the companies do succeed in convincing state and federal governments to use the devices, heavy regulations will follow to protect individuals’ rights; and
  • DNA evidence is still circumstantial in criminal cases.

Circumstantial evidence can still play a large role in proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but prosecutors need much more than DNA evidence to prove whether someone is guilty.