Crimes For Inclusion In A State Dna Database

As ofJune 1998, all 50 states in the United States had passed legislation requiring convicted offenders to provide samples for DNA databasing. Each state though has different requirements as to what types of offenses are considered for DNA sample collection. In many states these requirements are changing over time to include more and more criminal offenses. The requirements for having to donate a blood sample range from all felons to strictly sex offenses. The trend is for laws that require a DNA sample submission for any felony crime. Table 18.2 includes a summary list of the qualifying offenses for entry into a state's DNA database and the number of states within the U.S. that fall into each category as ofJune 2003.

Some state DNA database statutes specify exactly how the sample will be taken while others simply require any biological sample containing DNA. California, for example, requires two specimens of blood, a saliva sample and right thumb


Number of States

Sex crimes Murder

All violent crimes Burglary Drug crimes All felons Juveniles

Some misdemeanors

Table 18.2

Summary of U.S. state DNA database laws and qualifying offenses for DNA collection as of June 2003 (from http://


and full palm print impression for verifying identity of the submitting convicted offender (Herkenham 1999). The law for South Carolina, on the other hand, asks only for a suitable sample from which DNA may be obtained.

The ability of state and local forensic DNA laboratories to improve their capabilities for DNA analysis, especially with the STR technology described in this book, has been greatly aided by federal funding. The DNA Identification Act of 1994 provided approximately $40 million in federal matching grants to aid states in DNA analysis activities. This funding has been a great benefit to forensic DNA laboratories, which are typically understaffed and underfunded. While a convicted offender backlog of several hundred thousand samples exists in the United States as of early 2004, efforts are underway to alleviate this sample backlog within the next few years. In March 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced an initiative from President George W. Bush to put $1 billion into forensic DNA typing over the next five years. Only time will tell if political promises become financial facts. However, society is bound to benefit from this investment in forensic DNA technology (see D.N.A. Box 18.1). Progress on legislation regarding the use of DNA is available through the web site:


National DNA databases are being used in many countries around the world (Martin 2004, Walsh 2004). The same STR markers are being used in many instances. There are eight STR loci (FGA, TH01, VWA, D3S1358, D8S1179, D16S539, D18S51, and D21S11) that overlap between European and United States DNA database collection efforts. This fact will permit international collaboration on cases that warrant them.

The pioneering national DNA database was formed on 10 April 1995 in the United Kingdom and commonly referred to as the National DNA Database (NDNAD). Since the debut of this database, more than 2.5 million convicted felon DNA profiles have been processed by the United Kingdom's Forensic Science Service (Werrett and Sparkes 1998, Forensic Science Service 2003). Their original database involved six STR loci and the amelogenin gender identification marker with a random match probability of approximately 1 in 50 million. In 1999, the set of STR markers was expanded with the availability of the AmpF/STR® SGM Plus™ kit to include 10 STRs and amelogenin with a random match probability of approximately 1 in 3 trillion (see Chapters 5 and 21). The NDNAD delivers over 1700 crime scene-to-crime scene or suspect-to-crime scene hits per week (Asplen 2004) and has definitely demonstrated its value as an important tool for law enforcement. England's government has invested more than £182 million into NDNAD in the first 10 years of its existence, which equates to approximately $5 per citizen invested in DNA databasing (Asplen 2004). England has also had good success with mass screens, where

As described by Joseph Wambaugh's The Blooding, the first use of forensic DNA testing involved a genetic dragnet of over 4000 adult males in the Narborough, England area. Samples that failed to be excluded from the crime scene sample with traditional blood typing were subjected to 'DNA fingerprinting' or multi-locus RFLP testing. Colin Pitchfork was eventually apprehended based on this mass DNA intelligence screen (see D.N.A. Box 1.1).

DNA intelligence or 'mass' screens to aid identification of a perpetrator and exclusion of innocent individuals in no-suspect cases have been successfully used many times by the Forensic Science Service (FSS) and other law enforcement agencies. The largest mass screen conducted to date by the FSS was in conjunction with the investigation of the murder of Louise Smith, whose body was found near Chipping Sodbury, England in 1996. Over 4500 samples were analyzed from local volunteers at an expense of over one million pounds. Eventually police realized that one of the potential suspects had since moved to South Africa. He was tracked down and his DNA sample taken, which was found to match a crime scene STR profile recovered from the scene. David Frost is now serving time for the crime he committed and fled from hoping to escape justice.

Of course this type of effort and expense is not conducted in every case but it has proven useful in some situations. However, collecting samples from every individual fitting a particular description or living in a particular geographical region is not always greeted fondly by the general public. Questions about genetic privacy and civil liberties are often raised particularly in the United States when mass screens are initiated. In April 2004, a DNA dragnet was conducted in Charlottesville, Virginia to try and stop a rapist that had attacked at least six women between 1997 and 2003. Community concerns that black men were being targeted led police in Charlottesville to eventually suspend the mass screen after only collecting and analyzing about 200 men. Hopefully the proper balance can be found in the future to fully utilize the power of DNA testing and yet preserve the privacy and civil liberties of innocent citizens.


D.N.A. Box 18.3 DNA intelligence screens

DNA samples are collected from local volunteers in a particular region to help solve a crime without a suspect (D.N.A. Box 18.3).

Other countries in Europe besides England have also developed successful DNA databases (Martin et al. 2001, Schneider and Martin 2001). Each country has different laws regarding reasons for obtaining a DNA profile, when a profile would be expunged from the database, whether or not a DNA sample will be stored following analysis, and which STR loci are included. Most countries within the European Union have standardized on use of the AmpFlSTR® SGM Plus™ kit, which will enable fruitful collaboration of criminal DNA information in the future.


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  • donald panton
    What states require dna database entry for crimes?
    1 year ago
  • elias
    What are considered qualifying offenses in forensics?
    4 months ago

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