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Future of Forensic Identification: Issues and Prospects (From Forensic Identification and Criminal Justice: Forensic Science, Justice and Risk, P 179-213, 2006, Carole McCartney, -- See NCJ-216086)

NCJ Number
Carole McCartney
Date Published
35 pages
This chapter considers the issues and possibilities regarding the future criminal justice uses of forensic identification.
Since forensic science first made a contribution to law enforcement interests, forensic technologies have taken a far wider role in criminal justice processes and have moved up the criminal justice chain from fulfilling purely evidentiary roles in courtrooms to providing valuable evidence during the investigative phase. The author highlights the possible problems associated with an over-reliance on forensic science evidence, particularly at the investigative phase, as well as the benefits of forensic technologies, such as the establishment of Innocence Projects across the country that use forensic evidence to correct miscarriages of justice. Various developments in forensic DNA analysis are reviewed, including descriptions of DNA “identikits,” Mitochondrial DNA analysis, and Y chromosome analysis. Issues of human rights and civil liberties in an environment of increasingly advanced forensic science technologies are considered, particularly as they relate to nonconsensual forensic sampling and indefinite sample retention in national DNA databases. Despite the human rights and civil liberties issues brought up by the proliferation of forensic science, the creation of large-scale fingerprint and DNA databases have been met with limited public and legal resistance. Although the criminal justice system has increasing relied on forensic evidence to identify and prosecute criminal suspects, problems are inherent with the use of such evidence. Problems include the perception that forensic science evidence is infallible despite the very real potential of human error, contamination, and misinterpretation. The author notes that forensic science, along with its imperfections and challenges, is likely to remain wedded to criminal justice processes. Moreover, the use of surveillance and information storage on citizens is only expected to increase in coming years. In order to avoid a “technological tyranny,” legal practitioners, criminal justice agencies, and legal reformers are urged to solve the “culture clash” between law and science. Footnotes