Guest Column | October 1, 2009

Guest Column: RFID A Solution For Lost DNA Samples

By Reik Read, Robert W. Baird & Co.

DNA samples are becoming an increasingly important method for federal and state law enforcement agencies to help solve crimes and secure convictions. The evidence can also serve to clear those wrongly convicted. However, both Wisconsin and Illinois have recently found serious gaps in electronic DNA records, where the actual number of records is meaningfully less than the number of felons on file. In both states, all felons are required to have an electronic DNA sample in the database. While a component of these gaps appears to be clerical errors and slow test processing, a meaningful source appears to be lack of sample collection or failed receipt, although the actual source of the error is difficult to determine due to lack of traceability. In our view, RFID offers an effective solution to improving the record keeping in these databases that would lead to better conviction rates and greater public safety.

The Federal Government and 47 states currently obtain DNA samples from convicted felons. These samples are compared to crime scene evidence to identify potential suspects from DNA matches. About seven million samples currently reside in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) database, which is expected to increase by roughly 80,000 each year, according to the New York Times. The Times reports that this number will increase to 1.2M samples per year by 2012 as legislative changes extended collection beyond felons to include all arrests, similar to finger printing. Currently 19 states have legislation that requires collection from arrests, while another 15 states are considering such legislation. Some experts suggest the data base will grow to as large as 24 million samples in total.


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