State legislatures consider and enact laws that address the administration and use of forensic science by state justice systems. Issues addressed in these measures include the delegation of oversight responsibilities for forensic services, accreditation standards for forensic laboratories, access to post-conviction DNA testing, the collection and analysis of DNA samples from arrested and convicted individuals, standards for the collection and testing of sexual assault evidence and procedures for eyewitness identification.
Forensic Science Policies: 50 State Charts
Administration of Forensic Services
State laws determine how forensic services are administered. Many states choose to administer their forensic science departments through their state attorney general’s office or department of public safety. A few states have independent forensic science departments or forensic services divisions that share no oversight with law enforcement or prosecutorial services.A summary and chart of laws that address the administration of state forensic departments are provided here.
Accreditation of Forensic Laboratories
Forensic laboratories conduct many different scientific practices including DNA analysis, drug identification and fingerprint analysis. Accreditation programs are the primary method used to implement standards for how each science is practiced. State laws address which forensic practices must be accredited, which organizations must conduct the accreditation and what standards the evidence must meet to be admissible in court. A summary and chart of laws that address the accreditation of forensic laboratories are provided here.
Oversight of Forensic Services
Several state legislatures have created committees to oversee or study their forensic services. A summary and chart for laws that identify and address these committees are provided here.
Convicted Offender DNA Collection and Analysis
Every state collects DNA from at least some individuals convicted of certain crimes according to statute. A summary and chart for laws that address the collection and analysis of DNA for those convicted of certain crimes are provided here.
Arrestee DNA Collection and Analysis
DNA arrestee laws authorize the collection and analysis of DNA samples from individuals arrested or charged, but not convicted, of certain crimes. DNA arrestee laws identify which crimes qualify for sample collection, whether probable cause hearings are required prior to testing, whether the sample can be analyzed upon charge or arrest, expungement procedures and whether or not juveniles are subject to testing. A summary and chart of laws that address the collection and analysis of DNA from those arrested or charged with certain crimes are provided here.
Post-Conviction DNA Testing
Post-conviction DNA analysis provides a mechanism for certain convicted individuals to apply for testing that may prove their innocence. Post-conviction DNA laws address which convicts are eligible to apply, the standards for granting their application and limitations on the availability of testing. A summary and chart of laws that address post-conviction DNA analysis are provided here.
Forensic Biology Backlogs and Untested Sexual Assault Evidence
The increased use of forensic analysis by state justice systems has led to challenges for laboratories in meeting the demand for their services, resulting in backlogged requests. Forensic biology services, including DNA analysis, account for the majority of these backlogged requests. Several states have enacted laws to address their forensic biology backlogs. A summary and chart for laws that address untested sexual assault evidence and backlogs in forensic biology are provided here.
Eyewitness Identification Procedures
Several states have enacted laws to address procedures used in eyewitness identifications. These laws address the use of blind or double-blind lineup administration, the use of sequential lineups, instructions for eyewitnesses, requirements for lineup fillers, training for law enforcement and the formation of study committees. A summary and chart of laws that address eyewitness identification procedures are provided here.
As new uses for forensic technology and resources are developed, state legislatures consider measures that appropriately regulate their practice. Two emerging areas of legislative attention in forensics are familial DNA searches and the remote testimony of laboratory analysts during judicial proceedings. A summary and chart for laws that address these emerging issues are provided here.