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What is Forensic Genetics?

Article Details
  • Written By: Jodee Redmond
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Eabff, Paul Fleet, Anyaivanova, Irri Photos, Andres Rodriguez
  • Last Modified Date: 21 January 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2017
    Conjecture Corporation
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The field of forensic genetics involves using information about inherited tendencies to provide evidence for legal proceedings. It can include evidence presented in criminal and civil matters. Genetics has been used in forensic science to help law enforcement personnel for a number of years.

Before DNA identification was available, laboratory technicians working with police departments were able to analyze blood samples obtained from a crime scene to determine the perpetrator's blood type. This information was valuable when trying to rule out certain people from the list of suspects after a crime had occurred.

Hair samples from a suspect could also be examined by trained laboratory technicians, using a microscope in order to determine whether they were similar to hairs found at a crime scene. The technology couldn't determine whether two samples were an exact match, and defense attorneys would bring up this fact in court in an attempt to create reasonable doubt with a jury.

Now that DNA can be used to create genetic profiles based on a sample of blood or saliva, the field of forensic genetics has changed. Evidence obtained at a crime scene can be analyzed to develop a specific profile of a suspect. Once the profile is obtained, it can be compared to existing DNA profiles available to law enforcement officers. Placing a specific individual at a crime scene is key to ensuring that the person who committed a crime is brought to justice. DNA profiling in law enforcement also lowers the risk of a wrongful conviction.

This technology is also used to identify human remains. It may be applied to crime scenes, as well as disaster areas. When victims need to be identified, forensic genetics can be used to compare samples recovered from the scene to the DNA of known relatives. Being able to accurately identify those who have perished can help families have some degree of closure after a traumatic event.

Another way that forensic genetics can be used is to determine paternity. In some cases involving a claim for child support, establishing a biological relationship must be done before an order for financial support can be signed. A paternity test indicating that a man is the father of a child is over 99 percent accurate. If the results indicate that he is not the father, then the likelihood of paternity is almost zero.

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