Forensic Evidence: The Basics Of DNA

What is DNA?

The Scientific name for DNA is Deoxyribonucleic Acid.  It is a hereditary substance that is only found in cells that have a nucleus.  Each nucleus of a cell contains a unique DNA code.  Everyone has a different DNA code (except identical twins).

What is DNA profiling?

DNA profiling is a technique that forensic scientists use to identify the source of the DNA evidence.  Scientists can test skin cells, blood, saliva, hair roots, sweat, semen, and even the center of teeth to obtain a DNA profile.  DNA profiling is most commonly used to help law enforcement identify a suspect, or in some cases, it is used to identify the victim.

What is CODIS?

CODIS stands for the Combined DNA Index System.  This system is funded by the FBI contains DNA profiles of individuals from all over the country.  These profiles are from convicted offenders, unsolved crime scene evidence, and from missing persons.  According to the FBI, CODIS has produced over 120,300 hits in assisting more than 117,800 investigations as of June 2010.

If you are a convicted offender, your DNA may or may not be in CODIS.  State law differs on what convicted offenses require an individual to submit a DNA sample to be entered into the database.  These crimes can range from certain misdemeanors all the way up to violent felonies. To find out what Michigan’s qualifying offenses are, check out: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=12737

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