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What is an indirect DNA transfer and why is it problematic?

On Behalf of | Sep 24, 2023 | Criminal Defense

There’s no question that DNA evidence has completely changed things when it comes to criminal justice. Juries and judges tend to trust DNA even when they don’t trust anything else.

So, why is that a problem? 

Well, as science keeps marching forward, the amount of genetic material that’s required to get test results has gotten smaller and smaller, and the indirect transfer of DNA can easily lead to false conclusions and wrongful convictions.

What’s indirect DNA transfer?

Indirect DNA transfers refer to scenarios where someone’s DNA gets left on an object, like a weapon, clothing or even a victim’s body, without direct contact. 

This can happen in all kinds of ways. For example, imagine that you donate a box of well-loved books to a church auction. Someone buys the entire box and takes it home, and they spend some time sorting through the books – inadvertently getting microscopic amounts of your genetic material on their hands, clothes and in their house. 

Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. However, if that person happens to be the victim of a violent crime later that evening, your skin cells or a piece of stray hair could turn up in the evidence and you could be wrongfully accused.

Indirect DNA transfers are also a problem in crime labs. Even though labs are supposed to be absolutely meticulous when they collect, handle or analyze samples, contamination of a sample is still incredibly easy.

While DNA is an undeniably valuable source of information, DNA evidence should still be regarded with a grain of salt in criminal trials – especially when the genetic material is very small. 

If you’ve been accused of a crime and DNA is involved, there are still numerous defenses to explore. With experienced legal guidance, it may be possible to show a judge or jury just how easily evidence can be misinterpreted.