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Proposed Tennessee law lets DNA be charged with crime

In some criminal matters, the statute of limitation may run out before a suspect is ever found. A proposed Tennessee law seeks to prevent this from happening in the future by allowing law enforcement to charge unidentified DNA with violent crimes.

In a state bill that will be reviewed by the House and that has cleared the Senate, lawmakers hope to align modern DNA evidence collection procedures with the law. In cases such as rape where a criminal may leave DNA evidence behind, the new law would allow the collected DNA to be charged with the rape within the state's statute of limitations even before a suspect is identified.

A statute of limitations is a law that dictates for how long a person may enforce a right or for how long after committing a crime someone can be punished. By charging DNA and not a named suspect with a crime, law enforcement would be able to issue criminal charges within a statute of limitations without fear that the statute would expire before finding the alleged guilty party.

While the practice of charging DNA in Tennessee has been used in the past, the proposed law would make the practice expected across the state. This means that individuals whose DNA may have been left at crime scenes and who were hoping to avoid criminal conviction and prison sentences may need to prepare for accusations of criminal conduct long after any alleged involvement in a crime.

While all individuals who are arrested on criminal charges have a right to legal counsel, some people may not fully comprehend how useful legal counsel can be. In addition to guiding a criminal defendant through the complex processes of criminal procedure, criminal lawyers are specially trained to understand the ever-increasing changes in the law that make preparing for a criminal trial challenging.

Source: NBC 14 News, "TN law would charge DNA with crime if suspect unknown," Ian Reitz, April 4, 2013

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