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Last week the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments in a case that will shape the future of evidence collections and criminal justice across the country. The widespread practice of collecting DNA from criminal suspects at arrest is before the court, with advocates speaking up passionately on both sides.

The phrase "innocent until proven guilty" is more than just a cliché. It's an important principle in the criminal justice system. Some justice advocates have argued that taking a suspect's DNA after an arrest, instead of waiting for a conviction, leaves some innocent people at greater risk of wrongful convictions.

DNA evidence can be used in a multitude of ways. It can help link evidence to suspects or offenders already in the national database, helping to identify repeat offenders. It can also be used to "catch" offenders on a first offense, preventing future crimes. And, just as importantly, it is frequently used to exonerate those who have been wrongly convicted in previous criminal cases.

While the writers of crime dramas like to portray forensic technicians as quirky, infallible geniuses, unfortunately that is not always the case. Like any form of evidence, DNA is only as reliable as the people and tools that handle and interpret it. A careless technician, faulty equipment or break in the chain of command can all compromise evidence, sometimes with disastrous results for innocent suspects.

If you are facing charges or accusations of a crime it is important to act quickly to preserve your rights. Consider speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can work with you to fight any charges and protect your future.

Source: The FindLaw Blotter, "National DNA Database Comes Under Scrutiny," Deanne Katz, Feb. 27, 2013

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