DNA evidence is increasingly common in criminal prosecutions and appeals, as newer and more sophisticated techniques for collecting, testing, and preserving DNA evidence continuously develop. The law is always in the process of catching up to new DNA testing technologies. Making effective use of this type of evidence in your case requires the help of a Washington sex crimes defense lawyer who understands both the law and the science of DNA evidence. We will carefully review the chain of custody of DNA evidence used in your case and rigorously challenge any possible defects in how the state handled the evidence. We can also help you seek additional testing of DNA evidence in support of your defense or appeal.
How Does DNA Testing Work?
Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is a compound found in every cell of the human body, providing the blueprint for individual characteristics like hair and eye color. Each person has a unique DNA code, which can be identified using biological samples like hair, skin flakes, saliva, or semen. Police collect DNA evidence while investigating an alleged offense. In the case of an alleged sex offense, this might include a “rape kit” collected at a hospital, or materials collected from an alleged victim’s person or possessions, the scene of the alleged crime, or suspects under investigation.
Unfortunately for defendants, the state generally maintains custody of DNA samples. Defendants have little recourse against the state if samples are ruined because of storage errors like refrigerator failure.
Use of DNA Evidence During Prosecution
DNA evidence, once collected by the police, requires careful handling and storage in order to avoid contamination or spoilage. This includes carefully documenting a sample’s chain of custody. Defects in the chain of custody or damage to a sample could result in a court ruling test results inadmissible.
DNA test results could serve as evidence of guilt or as evidence raising reasonable doubt. Either side in a criminal trial can challenge the reliability or admissibility of DNA evidence.
Challenging a Conviction with DNA Test Results
Washington law allows a person who is incarcerated for a felony conviction to submit a request for new DNA testing to the court that entered their conviction, if new DNA evidence would be material to the identity of the perpetrator or an accomplice, or would provide other new and relevant information about the offense. The motion must state that the court did not admit DNA evidence at trial based on the test’s failure to meet “acceptable scientific standards,” that testing technology was inadequate at the time of their conviction, or that a new test is likely to produce more accurate results or “significant new information.”
If you are facing a sex offense charge in the Tacoma area, you should consult with an experienced Washington criminal defense attorney with knowledge of both the legal and the scientific aspects of a sex crime prosecution. Since 1995, Vindicate Criminal Law Group has been representing clients charged with alleged sex crimes and other offenses in the courts of Tacoma and Pierce County, as well as throughout Washington state. We have helped clients by challenging DNA evidence offered by the state or challenging the lack of such evidence. Contact us today online or at (888)-212-4824 to schedule a confidential case evaluation to discuss your case.