Saturday, April 18, 2009

DNA - What Advocates Should Know

DNA evidence is becoming prevalent in the investigation and prosecution of many crimes, particularly sexual assault. Advocates owe it to themselves and the victims they assist to become informed about the basics of this science. There are fundamental questions likely to come up and myths that an advocate can help dispel. There will be questions about the contrast of real life to television shows like CSI, back-ups at state labs and what exactly can be proven and how. Another consideration for advocates is the impact on victims when new DNA evidence surfaces in cold cases. Has the victim put the past behind her? Is a victim being re-traumatized?

From the
New York Times:
FBI & States Vastly Expand DNA Database

Law enforcement officials are vastly expanding their collection of DNA to include millions more people who have been arrested or detained but not yet convicted. The move, intended to help solve more crimes, is raising concerns about the privacy of petty offenders and people who are presumed innocent.

Until now, the federal government genetically tracked only convicts. But starting this month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will join 15 states that collect DNA samples from those awaiting trial and will collect DNA from detained immigrants — the vanguard of a growing class of genetic registrants.

The F.B.I., with a DNA database of 6.7 million profiles, expects to accelerate its growth rate from 80,000 new entries a year to 1.2 million by 2012 — a 17-fold increase. F.B.I. officials say they expect DNA processing backlogs — which now stand at more than 500,000 cases — to increase.

Law enforcement officials say that expanding the DNA databanks to include legally innocent people will help solve more violent crimes. They point out that DNA has helped convict thousands of criminals and has exonerated more than 200 wrongfully convicted people.

Continue reading HERE

There are some excellent trainings out there specifically for advocates. A good trainer can make this dry scientific subject fascinating. One such expert is Anjali Swienton, who trains SANE/SART Programs, law enforcement and victim advocates. If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of her lectures you will come away with alot of valuable information for your "advocate toolbox"

Also from

DNA Information and Resources for Victim Advocates

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