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Forensic DNA Education for Law Enforcement Decisionmakers

Defining the Specifics of Your Proposal

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Defining the Specifics of Your Proposal

photo of the Illinois state capital building
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

A new DNA proposal may pass state legislature without critical analysis if lawmakers believe it will assist law enforcement or help exonerate the innocent. Often, these assumptions are sufficient to swiftly move a new DNA proposal through both houses and onto the Chief Executive's desk. Due to the sensitivity of the process and costs involved with sample collection for DNA analysis, careful attention must be paid to determine the intended outcome and potential drawbacks of the legislation.5

For example, an Illinois bill regarding sample collection for DNA analysis upon felony conviction moved swiftly through the legislature. When passed, none of the 102 counties was ready to implement the measure. This created a huge gap in Illinois' DNA databasing system that the state had to work for years to correct. The potential for this gap likely exists in many states. Illinois, having identified the problem, can assist other states in identifying and correcting this gap before it significantly impacts the DNA databasing system.6,7

A thorough analysis of new DNA proposals, including identifying possible implementation issues, is critical and should be performed often during the drafting stage of the bill.8

5 Kyle I. Jen, Senior Fiscal Analyst Michigan's Forensic DNA Database (2003) 
6 The Compiler: Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority: State crime labs struggle to keep up with demand (2001). 
7 Illinois State Police 2004 DNA Testing Accountability Report 
8 Bruce Frederick, James A. Gilmer and David Van Alstyne Expanding the Offender Index of the New York State DNA Data Bank 

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