As it would be observed, criminal investigation has never been conducted fairly all the time. While there has been notable success in criminal investigation matters, it seems most likely that, many people in this world have been convicted of crimes they did not commit. This has been as a result of the many failures observed in criminal investigation process in the past, where investigators would rely on complicated and time-consuming evidence to get important clues that could be helpful in solving criminal cases. However, these complications and challenges in criminal investigation seem to be a thing of the past in the contemporary world following the evolution of DNA evidence for crime solving in the recent years. The last period of twenty or so years has seen great developments in this powerful criminal justice approach.
Through DNA evidence, it has proved to be easier for investigators to identify criminals with formidable evidence where there is existence of biological evidence. More importantly, the technology has been used to clear doubts on criminal suspects and absolve people who have been mistakenly convicted of crimes they did not commit. Based on these observations, there is no doubt that the DNA approach is extremely important in ensuring that there is fairness and convenience when it comes to justice delivery in courts. However, despite it being one of the most promising aspects of criminal investigation nowadays, the DNA technology is associated with some problems that would make it less effective than possible. This paper examines the existing evidence of DNA’s ineffectiveness in some situations, suggesting possible improvements that will help improve the use of the technology as an important element of Criminal Investigations in today’s criminal justice system.
Existing Problems that make DNA investigation less effective
Deoxyribonucleic Acid or DNA profiling was first developed as an approach of identifying and establishing paternity. In this case, samples extracted from humans were studied for genetic proof that could link two people bearing common features. However, this technology was first introduced in judicial systems in the year 1986. Here, DNA’s developer, Alec Jeffrey was asked by the police to apply the technology to verify the claims on a criminal suspect accused of rape. The right judgment on whether the suspect was guilty was made following the DNA test, where it was found that the perpetrator was someone else who was also identified using the same procedure. News about these new developments in the criminal justice system quickly spread into other regions of the world, thus making DNA one of the most effective and convenient approaches that can be used to solve complex crimes (Hess & Orthman, 2010). As a matter of fact, the past two decades have seen great developments in a more promising criminal justice approach using the DNA system. However, despite these great milestones, there are many problems that would make the approach less effective than possible when it comes to forensic matters.
Poor DNA Technology
Poor DNA technology is one of the biggest problems facing DNA investigation in the modern world. While it is easy for criminal justice systems to solve crime cases using DNA system, this goal can be hard to achieve on grounds where poor technological equipment is used. DNA is a microscopic plan whose processing involves a lot of work using various tools and equipment that have been designed to accomplish the entire test. Generally, the procedure involves three main stages that are conducted using different tools and equipment. The first stage involves collection of samples. The second stage is about posting the DNA samples or specimen for testing in the laboratory, and then there is the final stage which points to the completion of the DNA process whereby results are given to address the specified intention of the DNA. All These stages will undergo through numerous other strictly-controlled procedures that are conducted using sophisticated tools and equipment. The equipment used to analyse DNA testing include, but are not limited to, thermal cyclers, DNA probes, electric fields, and Spectrophotometers. Computers and other modern technologies are also used in conducting DNA tests on humans. Forensic investigations are sometimes carried out using poor DNA technologies and equipment and this can result to biased results. Moreover, most crime labs are not well equipped to address the heightening influx of biological evidence collected by forensic experts. This has resulted into accumulation of backlogs of unanalyzed samples in the laboratories, thus leading to delayed administration of justice as it has been observed in some parts of the world.
Lack of sufficient knowledge and skills in DNA matters
The use of DNA gives a standard form of admissible proof if carried out properly. However, one of the most serious challenges facing DNA evidence in criminal justice systems is lack of sufficient knowledge and skills in matters to do with DNA intended to solve criminal cases. Even though DNA analysis might appear to be a simple thing to anybody, the truth of the matter is that, this is a rather complicated process that requires a lot of knowledge and expertise. As we all know, the world is rapidly evolving due to globalization and this has greatly affected every aspect of human life. In this regard, there have been big advancements in the DNA testing technology over the years. This, however, calls for additional training and support on the professionals in this field in ensuring optimal application of DNA technology to resolve criminal cases in the shortest time possible (Raymond et al., 2009). There is no doubt that most delays in criminal investigation using the DNA approach have been caused by lack of sufficient knowledge and skills in modern-day DNA concepts that are more advanced compared to the ones used in the recent past. In this regard, there is a need to equip forensic professionals with abundant training and support that would enable them achieve the skills needed to ensure that analysis of DNA for forensic grounds meets its intended goals faster and effectively.
Possibility of evidence elimination
There is no doubt that the possibility of evidence getting eliminated before investigation is over remains one of the biggest challenges that makes DNA investigation less effective than possible in the modern world. In most scenarios, DNA investigation in murder and robbery cases involves the use of fingerprints on surfaces as one of the most helpful ways of identifying the real perpetrators or suspects in a crime. Obviously, the small ridges on the tips of our fingers are different on each one of us, and this makes it easy for forensic investigators use our fingerprints to identify criminals (Williams & Johnson, 2013). Once a person lays their hands on a surface, their fingerprints are left behind. This easy-to-find evidence can be in form of three types of prints which include latent prints, patent prints, and plastic prints. Latent marks can occur when someone lays their fingers on all surfaces. Patent prints will present if people happen to have stained fingers that would leave permanent stains on surfaces. Examples of substances that would cause patent prints would include blood and ink. Finally, there are plastic prints that would appear after someone touches a surface with fingers stained with butter or wax, among other similar substances. All these can be helpful investigation clue to forensic experts who use special skills to remove the fingerprints for further examination in crime labs.
No matter these security developments, criminals are also becoming smarter as time evolves, and only unqualified persons can be stupid enough to leave their marks on the crime scene nowadays. It is possible for people to conceal their fingerprints either by using protective gloves or any other item that would ensure that the small curves and whorls of their fingers are not left anywhere on the surfaces of the crime scene. More importantly, people have also devised new ways of tampering with finger print clues on crime scenes by cleaning or painting the surfaces immediately after the crime has been committed. This, however, makes it hard for forensic investigators to solve crimes using the DNA system as one of the most promising approach that can be used to identify criminal suspects.
Inadequate or weak crime laboratory capacity
As it would be observed, many crime laboratories allover the world lack the capacity needed to deal with DNA samples as they are received for fast and effective resolution of crime cases. This, however, makes it difficulty for the few professionals in the field to handle the substantial amount of DNA samples that greet the public crime laboratories every day. If anything, this contributes to accumulation of DNA samples in the crime laboratories, thus leading to delayed justice since it would take the few professionals more time to examine the samples.
Evidence of the system’s ineffectiveness
Even though DNA evidence has proved to be effective in solving crimes, there is evidence of the system’s ineffectiveness in giving a solution to the many criminal cases that have remained unresolved for many years. Despite it being seen as an effective approach that can be used as a significant proofing component in criminal justice systems, the system has failed to shade light to many criminal cases that have happened across the world (Williams & Johnson, 2006). No wonder, the people behind most of these mysterious cases have remained unknown to the world even after having committed the crimes many years ago. This delayed justice over the years has brought so much pain to the families of the victims, who must have thought that the incredible accuracy provided by the DNA technology will at least help in identifying the offenders.
Even though one of the major goals behind the use of the DNA was to help protect people from wrongful conviction, there is a lot of evidence in the recent years about people who continue to serve false sentences in prisons. This has the meaning that, either DNA testing findings to determine their connection with the associated crimes was tampered with to give the wrong results or the DNA was not even conducted before the conviction. The DNA system is known for its ability to provide quick solutions to complex crime cases through the application of DNA databases. This, however, has not been the case in all criminal cases happening in the world. Public crime laboratories are congested with backlogs of DNA samples pending investigation and this is a clear evidence of the system’s ineffectiveness in addressing criminal issues in the modern world.
There is a need for the necessary measures to be applied in ensuring that the DNA technology is used to its full potential to help solve and prevent serious crimes in the contemporary society. Following is a recommendation of some of the possible solutions in regard with the provided problems.
Improving DNA Technologies and equipment
Criminal investigation using DNA testing is rapidly evolving, and therefore, development of sophisticated equipment that will facilitate quick and timely analysis of DNA samples is vital. More importantly, public crime labs should acquire modern Automation tools and systems that will help to improve analyst productivity, lower human error, and minimise contamination.
Additional learning and support on DNA
As a result of the evolving nature of life due to globalization and technology, people within the criminal justice system require comprehensive training and support in ensuring that they are prepared to deal with the challenges of a modern-day crime laboratory.
Improvements on the methods used in the collection and retention of evidence
Since it is easy for criminals to get rid of all evidence which can serve as a clue in a crime scene, there is a need for improvements in the methods used to detect and collect concealed evidence that can be used for DNA investigation. For instance, those involved should come up with approaches that can be used to extract fingerprint evidence on gloves and surfaces that have already been cleaned. More importantly, public crime labs should invest heavily on systems that will ensure that evidence is not tampered with in the course of investigations.
Strengthening the capacity of crime laboratories
In order to address the overwhelming case management demands of the present times more appropriately, there is a need for governments to ensure that crime laboratory capacities are increased and strengthened to the desired limits.
How this improves the effectiveness of criminal investigations
Improvements on the loopholes in the DNA system will improve the effectiveness of criminal investigations in a number of ways. For example, this will ensure that crime investigations are conducted in the shortest time possible and this will help to clear the backlogs of DNA samples pending examination in public crime labs. These approaches, especially the ones aimed at improving DNA technologies, will enable people realise the potential of the system in helping to solve complex criminal cases. Finally, these improvements will play a vital role in ensuring that criminal evidence is protected and credibility of cases is maintained in the long run. All these improvements will be helpful in improving the effectiveness of criminal investigations around the world.
As it is observed from this report, the benefits of DNA in criminal investigation cannot be overestimated. In that case, necessary improvements should be made in the existing loopholes to ensure that justice is not delayed in courts.
Hess, K.M, & Orthman, C.H. (2010). Criminal Investigation (10th Ed). New York: Delmar Publications.
Raymond, J. J., van Oorschot, R. A., Gunn, P. R., Walsh, S. J., & Roux, C. (2009). Trace evidence characteristics of DNA: a preliminary investigation of the persistence of DNA at crime scenes. Forensic Science International: Genetics, 4(1), 26-33.
Williams, R., & Johnson, P. (2013). Genetic Policing: The Uses of DNA in Police Investigations. Ottawa: Willan.
Williams, R., & Johnson, P. (2006). Inclusiveness, effectiveness and intrusiveness: issues in the developing uses of DNA profiling in support of criminal investigations. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 34(2), 234-247.