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Use of DNA once again questioned by criminal defense experts

The use of DNA results to obtain dubious convictions in the state of Maryland is once again under scrutiny as a criminal defendant has requested that his case be dismissed. The man, age 46, was placed at the scene of a 2008 robbery thanks to DNA evidence he provided during the course of a 2012 rape investigation. The defendant was never charged in the rape case, but he was convicted of burglary. Now, the man's criminal defense attorney is attempting to have the conviction thrown out because of unfair investigative techniques.

Authorities in Maryland have come under fire for retaining DNA information too long after the resolution of a case. In this instance, it is possible that the man would not have been linked to the burglary if the officers had thrown out the DNA samples after a certain period of time. The U.S. Supreme Court has recently handed down a ruling that allows the collection of DNA from defendants accused of serious crimes. However, police must dispose of the samples when a defendant is cleared in the case.

Defense attorneys throughout the area have combined forces with civil rights groups who are concerned about the widespread DNA collections practices. As the DNA databases become more sophisticated, many citizens fear that the information will be used to impose on innocent residents. In this case, the man's attorneys said that the defendant was not informed about the use of his information, and officers inappropriately used it to further an unrelated criminal investigation. It appears that even the detective who was investigating that rape did not know that the DNA information would be kept for an extended period of time.

Criminal defense attorneys say that consent for DNA use is invalidated if the defendant is not informed about the potential for future criminal prosecution. Activists and attorneys throughout the state are working to overturn these unfair investigative practices. Criminal defendants should not have to fear repercussions after submitting DNA evidence to clear their names.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Maryland police DNA tactics again at issue in top courts" Ian Duncan, Apr. 10, 2014

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