Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

How DNA Is Used to Solve Crimes

Technological advancement is not limited to just the amazing shrinking size of your laptop and the amazing growing size of your cell phone screen. Technological progress has also leapt into the criminal justice field, particularly in the field of forensics. One of the most well-known areas where forensic technology has advanced is in DNA work. These days, DNA is used in the criminal justice field to not only solve crimes, but also to help free wrongly convicted individuals of past crimes when DNA technology did not exist.

To identify individuals, scientists carefully scan 13 regions of provided DNA, presumably from a crime scene or alleged murder weapon, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The 13 areas they focus on vary between individuals and are often referred to as the "fingerprint of DNA" because it is unique from person to person. Amazingly, these 13 distinctive hotspots are less than one-tenth of a single percent of DNA. In fact, most DNA between people is completely identical. Yet, scientists hone in on these 13 areas to see if the DNA on the evidence matches the DNA of the convicted individual. If the DNA matches, then the individual remains a viable suspect or is officially convicted beyond a reasonable doubt if all the other evidence stacks up. If the DNA is not a match, then there is a chance that the individual is not actually guilty of the crime he or she is accused of committing.

DNA is not only obtained from blood, but also from anything a human can leave behind. Sweat, hair, and skin cells all contain DNA, making it a good way to test whether or not the accused was present at the crime scene. This technology has also helped to exonerate many wrongly accused individuals. Criminal justice is supposed to be an error-free system where those who are accused of committing criminal acts can seek out a fair trial. There are many complex aspects to the criminal justice system that is supposed to put the guilty behind bars and set the innocent free. Yet, sometimes the criminal justice system gets it wrong. With the advance of forensic technology, old cases are getting a second look. Some criminals are reaffirmed guilty with DNA evidence, but some who may have served decades behind bars are suddenly set free after DNA evidence proved that the individual was not guilty. According to the Innocence Project, a group that strives to provide DNA testing to individuals who claim they were wrongly convicted, scores of people have been freed due to this technology, giving them a new lease on life.

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