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Report to the Attorney General on Delays in Forensic DNA Analysis

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2003
20 pages
This document assesses the existing analysis delays of crime scene DNA evidence and provides recommendations to eliminate those delays.
The assessments and recommendations address resource requirements for laboratory equipment; resource, training, and education requirements for laboratory personnel; and the use of innovative technologies that could permit speedier analysis with smaller equipment. Forensic DNA evidence has tremendous potential to solve some of the Nation’s most serious crimes. DNA has exonerated persons charged with or convicted of crimes they did not commit. But DNA currently is not used to its full potential because there is a significant backlog of casework samples that has been caused by a massive demand for DNA analyses without a corresponding growth in forensic laboratory capacity. It is estimated that approximately 350,000 rape and homicide cases await DNA testing. Only about 10 percent of these samples are in crime labs; approximately 90 percent are in the control of law enforcement agencies. One of the reasons why the majority of these unanalyzed samples are in the custody of police departments and not crime labs is because most crime labs lack sufficient evidence storage facilities that provide appropriate conditions to prevent degradation of evidence. The factors that contribute to the inability of labs to accept and process casework samples in a timely manner are a lack in sufficient trained forensic scientists, shrinking budgets, and an insufficient pool of qualified forensic scientists to hire. Recommendations include improving the DNA analysis capacity of public crime laboratories; helping State and local crime labs eliminate casework backlogs; eliminating existing convicted offender DNA backlogs; supporting training and education for forensic scientists; providing training to existing criminal justice personnel; and supporting DNA research and development.

Date Published: March 1, 2003