DNA evidence plays a significant role in the criminal justice system. In some cases, it can convict a person of a crime. In others, it establishes the innocence of a person who has spent years of their life in prison.
Because it is a deciding factor in so many criminal cases, strict standards are set on how to collect DNA evidence. The American Bar Association explains the standards for collecting DNA evidence for use in court proceedings.
Training of law enforcement
Even a small mistake or oversight impacts the validity of DNA evidence. For example, improper collection techniques may contaminate samples and render them useless. Accordingly, only law enforcement officials explicitly trained in the collection of such evidence should perform these tasks at crime scenes and other locations.
Defendant access to evidence
When charged with a crime, defendants have a right to arrange an investigation of the scene containing DNA evidence. A representative for the defendant, also trained in the proper methods of collecting DNA evidence, must have access to the scene to conduct their own investigation. If denied, the defendant’s attorney may request a court order to gain access.
Prompt collection of evidence
Upon learning of the existence of possible evidence, law enforcement must conduct a prompt investigation of the scene of the crime or any other locations containing potential evidence. Waiting too long could negatively affect the integrity of the evidence, as well as the criminal case.
Advances in technology should make the justice system more fair for those accused of crimes. That is why the above standards are so important, as failure to follow them can lead to wrongful convictions.