DNA from items collected at a crime scene or

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DNA Evidence and
Admissibility

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Mr. Levine

Jan. 12th, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

DNA Evidence and Admissibility

Introduction:

Crime scene evidence can
come in various different forms, some including, latent print evidence (e.g.,
fingerprints, palm prints, foot prints), digital evidence (e.g., cell phone
records, Internet logs, email messages) and trace evidence (e.g., fibers, soil,
vegetation, glass fragments) amongst many others (ForensicScience, 2013). Though,
the one form of evidence that has remained the most reliable and commonly used
for decades is, DNA Evidence (LegalDictionary). DNA, stands for
deoxyribonucleic acid, and is a molecule that carries the genetic instructions
used in the growth, development, functioning and reproduction of all known
living organisms and many viruses (Dictionary.com). It is responsible for
carrying one’s genetic code and determining traits ranging from eye colour to
aspects of their personality, and can be extracted from parts of a person’s
body such as their blood, skin cells, hair and bodily substances. DNA evidence
is DNA that has been extracted from items collected at a crime scene or off of
a suspect in a case. It is considered to be more reliable and readily available
in criminal investigations than other forms of evidence such as legible
fingerprints as, bodily fluids and hair are more likely to be left at the scene
of a crime and the DNA in a piece of physical evidence
such as a hair may be examined years after a crime. In cases where a suspect is
identified, samples of that person’s DNA can be compared to the collected DNA
evidence attained from the crime scene to help establish whether the suspect
committed the crime, or was linked to the scene of the crime. In cases where a
suspect has not yet been identified, the DNA evidence extracted from the scene of
the crime is analyzed and compared to offender profiles already established in
DNA databases to ultimately help identify the real perpetrator. Understanding
DNA evidence is often a lengthy process, taking anywhere from weeks or months
from the point of extraction, mailing, receiving, inventory, and analysis.
After collecting DNA at a crime scene using extreme caution, police officers
and detectives often work closely with laboratory personnel to make sure
evidence isn’t contaminated. This involves wearing gloves and using disposable
instruments, which can be discarded after collecting each sample. Following
this process, professionals use the DNA to either: identify criminals or clear
suspects and exonerate persons mistakenly accused or convicted of crimes. Most
often, DNA testing is used in cases of sexual assault, breaking & entering
and murder as in these types of cases, there is DNA evidence that can be
extracted from the clothes and body of the victim (DepartmentofJustice).

Issue:

Currently, upon attaining
a court order, DNA sampling from individuals is legal. Though, a largely controversial and debated topic that
concerns DNA Evidence is, the federal government is actively pushing to have a bill
implemented that allows arrestees to be forced into providing a DNA sample upon
their arrest, without a prior court order (TheGlobeAndMail, 2013). The issues
that erupt from this possible bill are that, individuals worry if police officers
have the power to collect DNA samples from arrestees, they’d be more likely to
arrest people they have no real case against to simply eliminate them as
suspects and to grow their DNA Database for future cases. Also, this would
create issues of the manipulation of evidence, where unlawful activities like
planting a person’s DNA evidence at a crime scene would become more common and
individuals are more likely to be wrongfully convicted as it is difficult to
prove evidence tampering with such a reliable form of evidence (TorontoSun, 2013).
Lastly, this would create the issue where individuals feel that this extraction
would be an invasion of privacy and constitute a violation of one’s legal
rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: to be secure against
unreasonable search or seizure (section 8) and have the presumption of
innocence (section 11d).

Who
is affected?

Those who are affected by
this issue are firstly, the arrestee who would be forced into giving a sample
of their DNA without a court order. They would be directly affected as their
legal rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms would be infringed
upon, where they would first, be unreasonably searched by having a DNA sample extracted
as evidence, and second, unfairly be presumed a possible guilty suspect when
the extraction is taking place. The implications of being directly affected
are, an invasion of privacy, the infringement of one’s legal rights and the
possibility of being wrongfully convicted if laboratory personnel interpret the DNA sampling
incorrectly. The party who would indirectly be affected is, the government. The
government is indirectly affected as they would be left to deal with the
backlash from citizens when protocols/ procedures
followed by laboratory personnel are revealed to be inadequate. These
inadequate procedures occur when the lab fails to adhere to standard protocols and
type samples accurately through their series of tests. Though, in cases where
evidence is suggested to be faulty, or tampered with, courts have shown little
inclination to exclude evidence on those grounds (NationalResearchCouncil, 1992).
Due to this little inclination to exclude evidence, citizens may protest and
cause major difficulties in trial proceedings and government courts, causing an
overall problem for the Canadian government.

Significance:

The significance of this
issue is that it constitutes the violation of Canadian citizens’ legal rights
from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter contains a series of
guaranteed rights and freedoms that all Canadian citizens are subject to. Since
its creation in 1982, the government has made significant amendments to laws to
ensure the correct application of the Charter in our legal system. Through
passing this potential bill to allow police officers to extract samples of DNA
from arrestees without a court order, the Canadian government would go against
the section 7, legal rights in the Charter and cause a significant backlash
from protesters and civil liberties groups as they believe it is unfair and
against the fundamental principles of the country.

Why
this issue is a concern for the law:

This issue is a
concern for the law as though there are significant cons that accompany this
potential bill, there are also many pros, that cause making the decision to
pass the bill very difficult and highly debated. As mentioned before, DNA evidence
is one of the most reliable forms of evidence as it is more readily available
in crime scenes than other forms of evidence, and the DNA in a piece of
physical evidence such as a strand of hair may be examined years after a crime.
Due to this reliability, there have been a plethora of cases where the
innocence of wrongfully accused citizens has been proved after their conviction,
releasing them from exoneration; examples including citizens like David Milgard
and Guy Paul Morin – who were both wrongfully convicted of sexual assault cases,
would have spent their lives in prison had it not been for the reconsideration and
revaluation of DNA evidence found at the crime scene (TorontoSun, 2013). Also,
through collecting DNA samples upon arrest, police officers are able to
efficiently eliminate potential suspects and grow their DNA database for
possible future convictions where they can use the collected samples as
references. These advantages to passing this bill are overall instrumental to
exonerating wrongfully convicted persons and creating efficiency in police
procedures, ultimately creating the issue of deciding whether these pros weigh
out the invasion of privacy and infringement of Chartered Rights for Canadian
citizens.

Recommendations:

I recommend that the
Canadian government should respond to this issue by educating the public of the
pros of passing this bill as I believe they most definitely weigh out the cons
of the issue. Through viewing the United States of America as an example, of
the 50 states, 29 have this exact bill, or one similar in affect in present day
society (Reuters, 2013). The affects of this bill in these 29 states, are that,
since 1989, there have been tens of thousands of cases where prime suspects
were identified and pursued—until DNA testing (prior to conviction) proved that
they were wrongly accused. They also stated that in more than 25% of cases in a
1996 National Institute of Justice study, suspects were excluded once DNA testing
was conducted during the criminal investigation (InnocenceProject, 2017). Using
this example, it is evident that wrongfully accused citizens will have a higher
chance of their innocence being proved if police are able to attain DNA samples
from possible suspects upon arrest.  

Possible
Consequences:

Potential consequences in
Canadian society that may erupt if this bill passes, are backlash from Canadian
citizens, who argue DNA collection infringes Charter Rights. An example of this
backlash is a case that took place in 2016, in Windsor Ontario where a man was convicted of animal abuse and ordered to give a DNA sample in case he
commits crimes in the future. Justice Micheline Rawlins of Ontario Superior
Court ordered the man to submit his DNA to a national police databank used to
solve crimes, telling court Monday, “people who become serial killers
begin with small animals. “. This raised concerns from civil liberties groups,
who argued DNA collection erodes privacy and violates civil rights. A
researcher with Ontario Civil Liberties Association said, “Forcing a person to
give up his or her DNA on the presumption that person may commit a future crime
violates civil rights, because it’s an unknown and future crime, there should
be a presumption of innocence and therefore there are no reasonable grounds for
an invasion of a person’s privacy” (CBC, 2016). This response can also be expected
if the government decides to pass this law as there will be an outburst of
cases appealing the collection of arrestee’s DNA as they believe the
presumption of innocence will be taken away.

Conclusion:

Overall,
DNA evidence remains to be one of the most reliable forms of evidence used in
today’s day and age. It is instrumental in allowing for efficient cases as well
as exonerating wrongfully convicted criminals. Though the potential bill
allowing police officers to collect DNA samples from arrestees arises issues pertaining
to the infringement of Canadian citizen’s section 7 legal rights, in retrospect,
passing the bill is far more beneficial for Canadian society than rejecting it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

ADVANCING JUSTICE THROUGH DNA TECHNOLOGY: USING
DNA TO SOLVE CRIMES. (n.d.). Retrieved January 11, 2018, from https://www.justice.gov/archives/ag/advancing-justice-through-dna-technology-using-dna-solve-crimes

Blais, T. (2013). DNA: 25 years in Canadian
courtrooms. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from http://torontosun.com/2013/12/06/dna-25-years-in-canadian-courtooms/wcm/50162083-5f92-4c5a-ad6a-6bb0dbe43af9

Connors, E. F. (1996). Convicted by juries, exonerated by science: case studies in the
use of DNA evidence to establish innocence after trial. Collingdale, PA: Diane Publishing Company.

Crime Scene Investigation. (n.d.). Retrieved
January 11, 2018, from http://www.forensicsciencesimplified.org/csi/how.html

DNA. (n.d.). Retrieved January 12, 2018, from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/dna

DNA Exonerations in the United States. (n.d.).
Retrieved January 11, 2018, from https://www.innocenceproject.org/dna-exonerations-in-the-united-states/

Feds looks at plan to collect DNA from suspects
upon arrest. (2017). Retrieved January 11, 2018, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-looks-at-plan-to-collect-dna-from-suspects-upon-arrest/article14652881/

Hurley, L. (2013). Justices say police can take
DNA upon arrest. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-dna/justices-say-police-can-take-dna-upon-arrest-idUSBRE9520O820130603

National Research Council (US) Committee on DNA
Technology in Forensic Science. (1992). Use of DNA Information in the Legal
System. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK234535/

News,
C. (2016, February 06). DNA order in animal abuse case sparks privacy debate.
Retrieved January 11, 2018, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/windsor-justice-dog-abuse-1.3433980