Untested Evidence in Law Enforcement Agencies

Backlogs are usually associated with cases waiting to be analyzed in crime laboratories. However, untested cases that may contain DNA evidence are also found in the evidence rooms of law enforcement agencies. (There is also a backlog of samples from convicted offenders and arrestees waiting to be submitted to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, known as CODIS.)

Researchers who surveyed more than 2,000 law enforcement agencies across the country found that 14 percent of all unsolved homicides and 18 percent of unsolved rapes contained evidence that was not submitted by law enforcement agencies to crime labs for analysis.

Investigating officers may not have sent the evidence to a crime laboratory for a number of reasons. For example, the case may have been adjudicated by plea bargain, the case may have been dismissed, the victim may have withdrawn the complaint, or the evidence collected may have been deemed nonprobative by investigators. Nevertheless, some of the untested evidence in police evidence rooms may contain probative forensic evidence and should have been submitted to a crime laboratory for analysis. The only way to determine if the untested evidence in law enforcement custody needs to be submitted for forensic analysis is to review the case and the evidence itself.

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Date Created: February 19, 2010