DNA Testing in Criminal Justice: Background, Current Law, Grants, and Issues [February 25, 2014]   [open pdf - 482KB]

"Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is the fundamental building block for an individual's entire genetic makeup. DNA is a powerful tool for law enforcement investigations because each person's DNA is different from that of every other individual (except for identical twins). […] The criminal justice community began to utilize DNA analyses more often in criminal investigations and trials, and in 1994 Congress enacted legislation to authorize the creation of a national DNA database. State laws dictate which convicted offenders, and sometimes people arrested for crimes, will have profiles entered into state DNA databases, while federal law dictates the scope of the national database. Increasing awareness of the power of DNA to solve crimes has resulted in increased demand for DNA analysis, which has resulted in a backlog of casework. Some jurisdictions have started to use their DNA databases for familial searching, which involves using offender profiles to identify relatives who might be perpetrators of crimes. In addition to solving crimes, DNA analysis can help exonerate people incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. Congress has authorized several grant programs to provide assistance to state and local governments for forensic sciences. Many of the programs focus on providing state and local governments with funding to reduce the backlog of forensic and convicted offender DNA samples waiting to be processed and entered into the national database. However, other grant programs provide funding for related purposes, such as offsetting the cost of providing post-conviction DNA testing."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R41800
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