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Does DNA profiling help convict more criminals?

Asked by: laultman
  • Yes yes yes

    Court ruling, which has removed some of the legal uncertainty around including arrestees in

    DNA databases. The other is that, as of January, Congressional legislation kicked in that will provide

    federal funding for states to put towards arrestee DNA databases.

    “There’s the decision finding it constitutional, and also there’s funding for states that don’t have

    it,” says Camps, the California deputy attorney general. The Supreme Court ruling combined with the

    Congressional promise of financial support, she thinks, “will make it a lot more likely that more states

    will develop this kind of database, which has really been of great importance in states like California.”

    Risher, the ACLU attorney, also predicts that DNA databases are likely to continue their expansion. But

    unlike Camps, he doesn’t feel that the expansion will necessarily benefit society. Sampling laws were

    signed to target violent criminals, but they have already expanded in scope. “If you’re arrested for

    having a dog off a leash in a federal park, you have to give a sample,” he says.

    David Kaye, a Penn State law professor who’s an expert on scientific and forensic evidence, also

    predicts that, in the long run, DNA sampling “will be much more like fingerprinting in the sense of being

    done across a wider range of crimes,” he says. “That’s what happened with convicted offenders: It

    started out with just sex offenses and murder, then moved to violent felonies, then in some states to all

    felonies and certain misdemeanors.”

    In addition to hashing out for which crimes arrestees’ DNA should be taken, Kaye says, there are

    other questions that will have to be addressed as more states implement their own databases: How

    early in the process should DNA be taken and sequenced? In states where familial searching is used, will

    it be allowed in arrestee databases as well? And if—or, more likely, when—technology advances to the

    point where DNA sequencers, like breathalyzers, can provide rapid analysis on-scene, how will that

    change things?

    “We’re past the starting gate,” says Kaye, “The question is, how far to run with this.”

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