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Arguments Against DNA and Forensics Testing

written by: efrontiers•edited by: lrohner•updated: 12/25/2010

DNA and forensics analysis have played a major role in the criminal justice system. But as this role expands, legal, ethical, and social concerns are raised. Presented in this article is the argument against DNA and forensics testing.

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    DNA and forensics testing has been very helpful in facilitating the apprehension of criminals. In addition, the technology has also exonerated people who had been wrongly arrested or incarcerated. With these advantages, the use of these tests has expanded. However, as DNA and forensics analysis expands, legal and ethical concerns are raised by the public. Learn more about the main argument against DNA and forensics testing.

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    Privacy Concerns

    In the context of the collection and use of DNA information for criminal justice, there are certain arguments over privacy concerns. One of the concerns is the physical and psychological intrusion of the government to individual’s private profiles. In the conduct of DNA testing and storing the collected data in databases, the government can search DNA profiles without the knowledge and consent of the individual. Leftist groups assert that this is tantamount to the infringement of privacy and the rights of the innocent.

    Another argument related to privacy is the retention of the biological samples of the government. From these samples, the DNA profile is derived. These biological samples can be a source of critical information about an individual. This critical information includes personal information about familial relationships and genetic disorders. The samples can also be a potent source of information about certain genetic traits like predilection to antisocial behavior.

    To answer such arguments, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provided a solution. In the amendments, the legal system is bound to ensure the legitimacy of government intrusions into the lives of private individuals. To protect the citizens against unreasonable searches, it is required that a search should be supported by a warrant based on probable cause.

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    Issues on Accuracy

    Another important concern regarding DNA testing is on the accuracy of the results and the quality of the testing. Generally, the DNA evidences are considered reliable by the courts. There remain doubts, however, with the accuracy and reliability of the results from DNA analyses. Possible errors in the procedures inside the laboratory can lead to accusation of the wrong persons. In fact, there are several scandals in laboratories due to deliberate malfeasance or negligence.

    To solve such concerns, it is recommended to implement a systematic assessment of the quality of DNA analysis and forensics laboratories. In addition, there should be close monitoring that the quality standards are satisfactorily enforced.

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    Social Repercussions

    The expansion of DNA data banking has social repercussions. One of the major issues is that this may deepen racial inequalities in the criminal justice system. This can also lead to the distrust of the minorities to law enforcement. Minority groups in the US are fearful that disparate arrests and conviction practices will lead to a staggering number of minorities being included in the data bank.

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    Practicality is another concern because over half a million DNA samples are in the waiting list to be entered into the government's database system. Some of these samples would have been useful as evidence for conviction. However, the statute of limitations has already expired in several of these cases.

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    Without a doubt, DNA and forensics analysis may be one of the most powerful tools for crime-fighting. The collection of DNA data for forensic purposes has several repercussions including ethical, legal, and social concerns. Therefore, the society should be careful not to allow the use of this technology to outpace legal and ethical considerations.