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Forensic DNA Education for Law Enforcement Decisionmakers

DNA Evidence: Probative Value and Prioritization


Agencies and laboratories have a finite capacity for processing crime scene evidence. This capacity is often stressed by the rising level of violent crimes.1 Depending on the circumstances, a crime scene can yield an overwhelming number of evidentiary items, requiring investigators and laboratory staff to prioritize the analysis of evidence or make decisions about whether certain items of evidence can be excluded from the analysis process.2

This discussion focuses on the methods used by law enforcement and laboratories to determine the probative value of an evidentiary item so that it can be prioritized appropriately and packaged in a manner that protects DNA evidence. Prioritization reduces the number of samples analyzed, which in turn reduces costs and speeds up turnaround times.

image of a crime scene, with a bloody hand, bloody footprint, and bullet shell casing
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

1 National Institute of Justice Increasing the Capacity of Crime Laboratories
2 Mark Nelson, Making Sense of DNA Backlogs, 2010 — Myths vs. Reality NIJ Special Report (2011)  

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