U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

National Forensic DNA Study Report, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2003
472 pages
This study estimated the degree of backlog of unsolved criminal cases that may benefit from DNA analysis and assessed law enforcement and laboratory capacities for investigating cases involving DNA.
Increasingly, DNA analysis is used in criminal cases to either prove the guilt of the defendant or exonerate the innocent. However, while it is acknowledged that there is a significant backlog of cases that would benefit from DNA analysis, no effort has been put forth to quantify this backlog. As such, this report not only attempts to quantify the backlog of cases that would benefit from DNA analysis, it also identifies the significant issues regarding the expansion of the use of DNA analysis in criminal cases. Methodology involved the use of mailed surveys to local and State forensic laboratories and local law enforcement agencies, as well as interviews with prosecutors, investigators, and laboratory administrators. Questions posed included the size of the case backlog and the capacity of evidence collection, storage, analysis, and retrieval systems to reduce the backlog. Results reveal that the size of the backlog of cases in homicide and rape investigations is very large and includes approximately 52,000 homicide and 169,000 rape cases. These include all rape and homicide cases for which law enforcement possesses possible biological evidence that has not yet been submitted for DNA analysis. An estimated 264,000 property cases containing possible biological evidence have also not been submitted to any laboratory for DNA analysis. Of the cases that have been submitted to local of State laboratories for DNA analysis, 34,700 cases have not yet been analyzed by State laboratories and 22,600 cases have not yet been analyzed by local laboratories. In all, approximately 542,700 crime cases with possible biological evidence either remain in the hands of law enforcement agencies or have been backlogged at forensic laboratories. Under further probing it was uncovered that a sizeable proportion of law enforcement agencies had not considered the use of DNA analysis even when biological evidence was present. Furthermore, it was found that both State and local laboratories are overworked, understaffed, and under-funded. The significant benefits of DNA analysis in both solving and preventing crimes underscores the importance of contributing to a nationwide DNA database. Also contained in this report is a study concerning the application of DNA technology in England and Wales. Tables

Date Published: December 1, 2003