Forensic DNA testing is an evolving, but still controversial, technique used in crime detection. It can also be used in civil cases such as paternity and disputes over legacies, but those are usually handled by standard swab tests. Criminal cases use DNA in a variety of ways, with exclusion being the most obvious and reliable. There have also been many attempts to shed light on old criminal cases from previous decades through the use of DNA, and some of these have been spectacularly successful. People who have languished in prison for many years for crimes they did not commit have been released, albeit far too late for justice to really be done.
When DNA testing was first discovered a quarter of a century ago, there were a lot of misconceptions about what it would be able to do. It is a natural tendency to be optimistic when new scientific discoveries are made, but the potential of DNA testing was greatly exaggerated. Nevertheless, it does have a vital role to play in the future of crime detection, and this will grow once the teething troubles and controversies over unproven techniques can be overcome.
The nature of DNA testing means that it works ideally where family disputes are concerned. There is a section of the overall DNA strands which is unique in every individual, and if this DNA evidence is left behind at a crime scene, that is conclusive proof that the person was there. Because this unique genetic print is formed from the genes of the father and mother, it is a very accurate way to determine parentage. In a criminal case, there is usually no blood relationship between the perpetrator and any victims, so the DNA needs to be used in a different way.
There have been many controversies surrounding forensic DNA testing, and these have definitely served to reduce the public’s belief in the system. There have been cases where unclean swabs have been used to collect DNA in the first place, destroying the credibility of the forensic scientists completely. There have also been many cases where admissible evidence has been improperly stored, leading to the possibility of cross-contamination between exhibits.
These problems need to become a thing of the past if forensic DNA testing is to really take its place in the public confidence, and in the mainstream of crime detection. Also, the controversies and arguments over modern techniques which seek to magnify infinitesimally small samples of DNA need to end. Objective research is needed to determine whether these techniques can play any part in something as exacting as forensic science. There is still a great potential for good in the mainstream techniques, as has been evidenced by the cases they have helped to solve, but there is now a need for a reevaluation of forensic DNA testing.