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Broward law enforcement hiring private labs to test dna

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Posted on August 03, 2010 12:00 AM EST

With the rise in the number of burglary cases in Broward County, The Ft. Lauderdale police have turned to private crime labs to help solve some of the cases. The leaders in the police department claim that they could make a dent in solving numerous house and auto burglaries if they had the ability to collect and timely analyze DNA evidence. The same officials claim that the Broward County crime lab takes too long to analyze the samples and wish to speed up the process by hiring private crime labs. DNA tests involving samples relating to non-violent crimes are taking at least nine months to complete. The police chief specifically said that the lab does a great job, but it is not big enough to handle the demand from all of the Broward County police departments. The lack of evidence being secured in non-violent cases provide a lot of good cross examination questions that criminal defense lawyers can use in trial.

The BSO crime lab retorted that it handles about 700 cases a year and priority is given to murders and sexual battery cases. The lab also stated that it handles more than DNA cases, but also firearm, drug and fingerprint analysis. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department is looking for a private company to handle about 1,000 cases a year. They intend to use the private lab for non-violent crimes such as burglary and theft cases, while continuing to use the BSO lab for major violent crimes. Where the Fort Lauderdale Police Department obtains the additional funding for such a program remains to be seen. The department is also training officers in crime scene collection in non-violent crimes as the BSO crime lab does not have the personnel to visit every crime scene.

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department is seeking federal grants to subsidize the hiring of private labs to conduct DNA analysis. The cost of analyzing one DNA samples costs about $2,000, but the cost can be reduced if numerous cases are sent to the same lab. DNA swabs are taken of all defendants who enter pleas or are found guilty by a jury. The intent of relatively new legislation that requires taking DNA swabs of all defendants who enter pleas or who are found guilty is to solve crimes committed by repeat offenders. Reports indicate that non-violent crimes such as burglaries and auto thefts are committed by repeat offenders and that the thorough crime scene analysis and timely lab testing will go a long way to solving these types of crimes.

The number of unsolved burglary cases in the United States is at a highly unacceptable number and science can be used to bring offenders to justice. The Broward County State Attorney responded by saying that DNA is a valuable crime fighting tool and should be used to solve crimes against property, as well as, violent crimes. Miami-Dade County law enforcement agencies have not attempted to hire private labs, but if Ft. Lauderdale is successful, Miami is sure to follow suit. Until that time, state prosecutors will have to rely on eyewitnesses and statements provided by defendants to try to prove their cases. That is a good thing for defendants because identifications and confessions can be subjected to scrutiny in front of a jury.

Lauderdale Police Consider Using Private Labs to Test DNA Evidence, The Sun Sentinal.com, July 31, 2010.

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