How Long Does DNA Testing Take in Criminal Cases?
Do you want to include forensic DNA in your mystery novel but aren’t sure how long it will take for the findings to get back from the crime lab? The characters on TV receive the forensic DNA testings in one hour. Backlogs have also been reported in the news, with discoveries taking months, if not years, to arrive. You know the first scenario is incorrect, but the second scenario is unsuitable for your novel.
A new technology/workflow at DNA test near me contributed to the reduction in response time. Due to an inflow of submissions and personnel turnover, it rose. To make your forensic DNA findings more realistic, you might utilize these diverse circumstances as story elements in your novel.
But first, let’s review the forensic DNA analysis process.
In a Crime Lab, An Overview of Forensic DNA Analysis
- A Preliminary Examination
If the case is positive, a prenatal paternity test is performed on representative samples. If the patient is unfounded, a report is made, and the material is returned to the agency.
- DNA Examination
Samples were chosen for DNA testing following a workflow that involves extracting DNA from cells, determining how much DNA is there, and generating copies. Hence, there is enough DNA to work with, and putting the amplified DNA through a genetic analyzer to obtain the DNA profile.
- Data Analysis and Interpretation
A software program analyses the DNA profiles of all the samples in a case, and the DNA analyst interprets the results. After that, the analyst compares the profiles and concludes.
- Creating a Report
The DNA analyst then prepares a report on their findings after reaching the conclusions.
- Technical Assessment
Another certified DNA analyst must technically check all forensic DNA case reports. The reviewer looks over the case file, checking for technical correctness in the findings and conclusions. The evidence is returned to the agency, and the report is sent out once the reviewer signs off on the information.
The length of time it takes for a case to go through this procedure varies.
Type of Analysis and Factors Affecting Forensic DNA Turnaround Time
Nuclear DNA testing is quicker than mitochondrial DNA testing and investigative genetic genealogy testing.
Public vs. Private Laboratories
Taxpayers support public crime laboratories, which provide free forensic testing to law enforcement organizations. Many public crime labs, on the other hand, are experiencing backlogs. For a price, private laboratories provide forensic DNA testing. Remote lab testing is more efficient.
The Case Type
Another consideration is the nature of the case. Because extracting DNA from sperm cells necessitates a particular (longer) method, the DNA phase of the workflow might also take longer.
The Total Number of Cases:
The magnitude of the case (i.e., the number of objects submitted for examination) impacts the time it takes to get forensic DNA findings. A complex homicide or assault case including dozens of things, several suspects, and multiple victims will take far longer to solve than a simple burglary involving a few goods.
Instruments for troubleshooting might also obstruct gaining rapid findings. The device is out of service, interfering with production, but someone needs to troubleshoot with tech support to figure out what’s wrong, which means the analyst isn’t working on cases.
For three weeks, I had to debug a genetic analyzer! Other analysts were working on other cases, and I was allowed to tech review cases in between troubleshooting duties, but I wasn’t working on any new issues.
Re-analysis may be necessary due to complex samples or unexpected results. I once took cuttings from a bloodstain on a pair of pants while working on a homicide investigation. There was no DNA profile in the data when I looked at it. I took another slice, but there was no profile this time.
Personnel from the Crime Lab are available.
The availability of criminal justice staff can significantly impact turnaround time. People take vacations, attend pieces of training/conferences, become ill, experience medical/family issues, take time off, etc.
A lack of employees particularly severely strikes a smaller lab (like the one where I worked). When someone resigns, the post isn’t immediately filled (it might take months), and when it is, someone needs to teach the new hire, which takes the trainer away from casework.
Meetings, court, presentations, equipment maintenance, audits, and pieces of training are all responsibilities of forensic scientists in addition to casework.
Turnaround Time For Criminal DNA Analysis:
What timescale should you utilize in your fiction works now that you know the many elements that might affect forensic or prenatal DNA testing turnaround time?
As a general rule, I urge crime fiction authors to employ a public crime lab with a minimum turnaround time of two weeks for nuclear DNA testing. It is quicker than months or years but more realistic than an hour.
To receive your findings faster, you may also throw in other scenarios/tweaks based on the many parameters listed above. You have the option of sending the goods to a private lab or merely testing one or two.