How DNA Can Be a Benefit or Detriment in a Sexual Assault Case

DNA evidence has become a staple in legal defense in sexual assault or other sexual violence cases. Often, it is one of the most important tools when seeking justice for survivors of assault. But what is DNA, exactly?

DNA is described as the material that is found in cells which determines our physical characteristics such as eye color, hair, skin color, and more. Other than identical twins, everyone has their own unique DNA. This makes DNA evidence more reliable than even fingerprinting.

This material can be found in blood, urine, saliva, skin tissue, semen, and sweat. Due to how the material is found, it is important victims have a forensic exam as quickly as possible. When able to, victims should try to avoid showering, cleaning their fingerprints, or even urinating until after the exam. This gives the highest probability of finding DNA evidence, heightening the chance of justice.

Benefits of a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam

  • Improves odds of identifying the culprit. DNA samples allow forensic scientists to run the information against a database of thousands of profiles that is run by the FBI.
  • Carries weight in court. Many cases, unfortunately, must rely on witness and firsthand accounts. This type of evidence is less susceptible to interpretation, making it a far more solid base for a strong case.
  • Helps future cases. Since violent criminals tend to be serial perpetrators, having their DNA on file can help future cases as well. Even if the criminal isn’t prosecuted, their DNA will still be added to the database.

Once this evidence has been gathered, there is a strict procedure of what is done with the evidence to avoid claims of tampering.  The evidence is overseen by law enforcement who decide whether it is sent to a crime lab. The lab then analyzes the evidence and builds a profile of the perpetrator, which is then compared to a pool of potential suspects. When there are no potential suspects, it is run against a database run by the FBI.