The Orange County District Attorney has been resolving criminal cases by having the Defendant give their DNA in exchange for dismissals of usually minor cases.
This program in Orange County has only been in effect for the last couple of years and had generally been very beneficial to Orange County Defendants facing minor criminal charges such as ‘hit and run’ and ‘petty theft’ in that they can get the case dismissed by offering to give their DNA.
DNA of course refers to Deoxyribonucleicacid which is a macromolecule that exists in every living thing. Because DNA is unique to each person it is used by law enforcement as a means of identifying individuals who may be involved in a crime. If police find a strand of hair, drop of blood or other bodily substance at a crime scene they can test the substance against DNA samples in nationwide data bases. If the person who left the DNA at the crime scene is in the data base then the police will have a ‘hit’ and can investigate that person as someone of interest. Law enforcement can use the presence of DNA to put a particular person at a particular place or in the case of sexual assault cases, the DNA present in semen or other bodily fluids can be used to determine who committed the crime.
DNA has proven to be a very useful tool for law enforcement, as such Tony Rackauckas the Orange County District Attorney, implemented the DNA for dismissal program as a way to build up a local Orange County DNA base which will interface with national data bases.
Some people are hesitant to give their DNA for fear of being mistakenly accused of a crime by some glitch in the system. However, experts say that DNA is like a fingerprint only much more reliable in its uniqueness to each individual. In addition, it is rare that an individual is charged or convicted with DNA alone; usually other evidence is produced to show the likelihood of the individual being present at the scene in addition to the DNA.
DNA has most famously been used to exclude people from having committed crimes. The media reports numerous instances where individuals who were convicted of crimes and already served long sentences are suddenly freed because DNA testing showed that someone else was the culprit. For example, evidence from rape cases that occurred before DNA testing was available can be subject to DNA testing if the court allows the matter to be reopened. Many individuals have been freed because of DNA testing done after the person was sentenced and convicted.
Everyone should be advised however, that once their DNA is in the data base and they subsequently commit a crime their chances of being discovered are much greater.