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DNA and the ConstitutionBY: Rebekah marshall | Category: DNA | Submitted: 2011-12-08 21:34:32
Article Summary: "This article sheds light on the need for reexamination of our current laws, due hugely in part to our scientific advances in DNA..."
DNA and the Constitution
DNA has changed the face of our criminal justice system. The advances in science through the discovery of DNA have now become part of our everyday lives. The Constitution of The United States was written long before these advances in modern day science. Our current laws must be reexamined in the face of this new technology.
The Bill of Rights and The Constitution were designed to protect our citizens and afford us all certain legal rights. The Double Jeopardy law is designed to protect the accused of being charged more than once for the same crime. This is in an effort to protect prolonged harassment and criminal profiling of the accused. The Statute of Limitations was written very much in accordance with The Double Jeopardy law. The Statute may vary from state to state. The primary focus of the statute is to prevent charges from being brought if they are not filed within the given time frame.
DNA has shed new light on evidence within the criminal justice system. It is now a possibility to determine the perpetrator of a crime with almost complete certainty. It is a travesty that criminals are able to beat the system within the very laws that were designed to protect our society. Evidence that has been previously collected at crime scenes should be able to be used for DNA testing regardless of the time constraints of the Constitution. Cases that have been previously tried should be able to be reopened in light of new evidence.
DNA was first introduced as evidence in the Unites States in a state courtroom in 1987. The introduction of this evidence changed the existing procedure for felony convictions across the country. Statues are currently in place in several states that require the taking of DNA profiles of all people that are arrested on a felony charge. In the event that the charges are dropped, or the person is acquitted, the profile will be deleted. The invention of DNA has brought to light many guilty criminals, and exonerated several criminals that were previously found guilty of committing a crime. According to The Innocence Project, there have been almost three hundred post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States. There have been 213 DNA exonerations alone since the year 2000. Tens of thousands of cases have been wrongfully pursued and then dropped in the post- conviction phase due to DNA evidence. These statistics are alarmingly high, and should at very least warrant the reexamination of our current laws.
DNA evidence has also been used several times to exonerate inmates on death row. Much debate has ensued concerning death penalty sentencing since the discovery of DNA. The invention of DNA has largely changed the minds of many death penalty supporters.
"These DNA exoneration cases have provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events, but arise from systematic defects that can be precisely identified and addressed" (The Innocence Project) .
There have been numerous cases that have been recently overturned on DNA evidence alone. Most of the people who have been exonerated have served the better part of their lives behind bars. Many of these exonerations have resulted in the identification of several of the guilty parties of these crimes. Most of the perpetrators of these violent crimes have subsequently been matched to existing DNA profiles within the system. Unfortunately due to the Statute of Limitations, many of these criminals will now never be prosecuted. The Double Jeopardy Law remains equally as frustrating. Criminals that have managed to obtain an innocent verdict at trial may never be prosecuted again for the same crime. These criminals are considered innocent within our society, regardless if there is undeniable proof that has surfaced that they did in fact commit the crime.
There are several causes of controversy surrounding the use of DNA. The primary causes of concern are the invasion of civil liberties, cost of DNA testing, and the accuracy of the testing. Critics argue that the DNA samples that are obtained at a crime scene may be jeopardized and damaged. Many fear that the collected samples go through too many hands through every stage of the collecting and scientific analysis process. While there will always be some room for human error and doubt, DNA continues to remain the strongest piece of evidence that can be obtained from a crime.
There remains no clear cut answer to the disparities within the criminal justice system. While many people argue that the collection of DNA violates our Fourth Amendment rights, just as many people argue the necessity of a crime free society. Over the last twenty years the progress of DNA technology has been substantial. Testing results have become quicker to obtain and are more precise. It is not uncommon for the average citizen to be able to easily obtain their own DNA tests for paternity determination. These tests can be then sent into laboratories for a fee that is very feasible.
Advances in DNA will most definitely continue in the future years. While there is no way of predicting future science, there are several points that remain very clear. DNA testing has without a doubt exonerated many suspects and accused criminals, while taking many serial rapists and murderers off of our streets. The imprisonment of these once illusive criminals has spared future victims, and numerous cold cases have been solved. Solving these cold cases at one point was deemed next to hopeless. DNA has successfully been able to provide some form of justice and closure for the victims of these crimes and their family members.
Our laws have not yet caught up to our current technology. Living in the DNA era, The Double Jeopardy Law, and The Statute of Limitations on rape and murder cases is now seemingly outdated. Our laws must be reexamined in order to properly protect our citizens. Our first priority needs to lie with the protection of our neighborhoods from these predators, and less with preserving the Constitutional rights of criminals.
Innocence Project Facts on Post-Conviction DNA Exonerations. Benjamin N. Cordozo
School of Law at Yeshiva University, 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.
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