DNA evidence has been a game-changer for the criminal justice system, and even though the technology is relatively new, it has resulted in the conviction and exoneration of hundreds of people. DNA can be used in criminal investigations to determine if a person was at a crime scene or is linked to a sexual assault.
While crime drama television shows can make it seem that DNA evidence is used in almost every crime, this is not the reality. According to Wisconsin law, DNA evidence can only be submitted for analysis in relation to a felony criminal investigation. This includes sexual assaults, homicides, felony burglary and property crimes, criminal parentage cases and various other felonies.
There are very strict guidelines as to what can be submitted for analysis, and these guidelines differ depending on the potential charges. For example, DNA evidence related to a homicide investigation can include 10 items per submission, while burglary crimes are limited to three.
There are also different types of items that can be sent for submission. While in cases of sexual assault, there is usually a sexual assault evidence kit, items referred to as touched evidence can also be used if they are highly likely to result in significant leads. Touched evidence is any item that may have been touched by the person of interest but does not have any visible staining.
DNA evidence can often make or break a case, and it is crucial that it be handled properly and according to all guidelines. If you are a defendant in a case where DNA evidence is being used, a criminal defense attorney can help you understand what this means for you and what to expect moving forward.
Source: State of Wisconsin Department of Justice, "Submission guidelines for DNA" Dec. 27, 2014