Working Unknown Suspect Cases

Crime laboratories must work cases that have no suspect in order to take full advantage of DNA databases. Convicted offender samples can be typed in large batches because large numbers come into the laboratory together and they are in the same format, such as liquid blood. Casework samples, on the other hand, present a different kind of challenge. Each case requires significant up-front work including evidence handling, locating DNA within the submitted evidence, and extraction of DNA from different types of substrates. Often sample mixtures must be dealt with and interpreted. Multiple pieces of evidence may also be involved in a case. In addition, significant work is required after analysis of the samples. Lab reports must be written and court testimony may be required.

In spite of the time and effort required to obtain results on crime scene samples, it is working these cases that make DNA databases effective. Law enforcement agencies must be encouraged to collect and submit evidence to the nation's crime laboratories especially if the statute of limitations is about to expire on a case (D.N.A. Box 18.2). In some cases, thousands of rape kits are sitting in police evidence rooms that are not submitted to crime laboratories (Lovrich et al. 2004).

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