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Can DNA evidence help or hurt criminal defense?

On Behalf of | Jun 5, 2023 | Criminal Law | 0 comments

DNA evidence is a double-edged sword in criminal cases. It can help or hurt the defendant’s position. When properly utilized, DNA evidence can significantly benefit the accused. It can provide strong support for their innocence. However, mishandling or misinterpreting DNA evidence can also harm the defense.

Below are the advantages of using DNA evidence:

  • Scientific validity: DNA evidence is reliable and scientifically valid. It can provide objective information about the presence or absence of an individual’s DNA at a crime scene.
  • Exclusionary power: DNA evidence can exclude individuals as suspects. If the DNA profile does not match the defendant’s, it may prove their innocence. If not, it may at least raise a reasonable doubt about their involvement in the crime.
  • Longevity and preservation: DNA evidence can withstand the test of time. Even if years have passed, retesting may still be possible years later. It just needs to be stored appropriately. 

Meanwhile, utilizing DNA evidence also faces some challenges:

  • Limited applicability: DNA evidence is not always available at every crime scene. Its usefulness depends on the presence of biological material that contains DNA. Examples include blood, saliva or hair. If such evidence is lacking, the defense may need to rely on other forms of evidence.
  • Contextual considerations: DNA evidence carries significant weight. However, it should not be viewed in isolation. There is a need for corroborating evidence. Witness testimonies or other forensic findings may be necessary to challenge the prosecution’s case.
  • Potential for human error: Mishandling of DNA samples can compromise the reliability of DNA evidence. Factors such as secondary transfer or contamination can create false positives and misinterpretations.
  • Manipulation and misuse: Deliberately planting DNA evidence can happen, although in rare instances. People can manipulate it to frame innocent individuals for a crime. Therefore, there is a need for a rigorous chain of custody procedures and expert scrutiny of the evidence.

DNA evidence can be a compelling asset in criminal defense cases. However, it should be utilized appropriately and with other relevant evidence. Recognizing its limitations and the need for expert interpretation can help provide a more accurate application in the courtroom.



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