What are the Legal Uses of DNA Analysis?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A deoxyribonucleic acid analysis, or DNA analysis, can be legally used to identify or exonerate criminals or suspects of a crime. It can also be used to identify victims of a crime when a visual identification is not possible. Citizens can also use a DNA analysis to ascertain paternity or other personal identification for use in a child custody suit, and certain other legal proceedings.

DNA analysis may be conducted to identify suspects of a crime.
DNA analysis may be conducted to identify suspects of a crime.

One of the most common uses of DNA analysis is in the identification of criminals. Law enforcement officials often collect DNA samples at crime scenes to use in lab tests. Once these tests are complete, the presence of a person at a crime scene can sometimes be proven. In some cases, a suspect's involvement in a crime may also be proven false if a DNA match is not made. Criminals on death row often request a DNA test to prove their innocence, which has resulted in the death row exoneration of several people.

DNA analysis can be used to make identity claims and determine parentage.
DNA analysis can be used to make identity claims and determine parentage.

Using DNA analysis to determine paternity in child custody cases has become a popular practice. Other familial relationships, such as the kinship of adopted siblings, may also be determined with the help of DNA. Analyzing DNA can also be critical in saving people's lives. Legal DNA testing is often conducted to match organ donors to recipients.

Some private businesses keep DNA evidence on hand. These might include legal service companies or insurance agencies. Such evidence may be used to identify clients making claims, establish parentage for people listed in a last will and testament, and many other applications. Some people argue that this is a breach of privacy that may be used to discriminate, such as denying insurance coverage based on DNA analysis.

DNA analysis is not limited to humans. Wildlife officials sometimes use the technology to determine the species of an endangered animal or to prosecute poachers for harming wildlife. Animal pedigree, such as livestock or pets used in animal shows, and the authenticity of rare delicacies may also be legally determined through DNA testing.

To determine the local legal uses of DNA analysis, interested persons should contact their local governing body. DNA laws differ depending upon local governments, such as individual state legislatures in the United States. DNA storage, collection, and other policies are typically determined by local government officials as well.

Wildlife officials sometimes use DNA analysis to determine the species of an endangered animal.
Wildlife officials sometimes use DNA analysis to determine the species of an endangered animal.
Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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