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Can DNA Evidence Be Contaminated?

August 18, 2016 | Written by Dan Margolis

In today’s judicial system, DNA evidence has become an important tool in creating cases against suspects throughout Ohio. It has also been used to overturn cases that are decades old. However, you might be surprised to learn that it is more fallible than you are led to believe.

According to, in an experiment, knives were tested for DNA evidence after they were handled by a group of volunteers. However, before handling the knives, the volunteers spent two minutes shaking the hand of another person. When the DNA was examined, researchers found that the majority amount of DNA belonged to the other person one-fifth of the time. Researchers found that a profile on the other person could be gathered from the DNA in 85 percent of cases, even though the other person had never physically touched the knife.

Researchers point out that a few cells are all it takes to generate a complete genetic profile of someone. Law enforcement officials often search for any traces of DNA beyond what is left by bodily fluids, such as blood, at crime scenes. However, it is easy for your DNA to end up in places you might never have even visited through transference. As such, it is important that law enforcement agencies and courtrooms discuss the possibility of this transmission, especially when “touch DNA,” or just a few cells rather than a sample of bodily fluids or blood, is being used on a case.

While it seems doubtful, there has been one case where DNA transference was proven. A person received medical care from paramedics. Those paramedics then came to a crime scene where someone was murdered. Somehow, the person’s DNA was transferred to the crime scene and the person was falsely charged with murder. However, authorities figured out what happened in this instance and the charges were eventually dropped. This information is only intended to educate and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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