Local law enforcement agencies in Colorado are focusing on solving property crimes, such as motor vehicle thefts and burglaries, by sending DNA evidence to a new forensics lab in Boulder. This means that police in Colorado are more likely to show up to the scene of a property crime with a portable lab kit that allows them to swab for DNA samples and identify them using FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
It’s unsurprising that Colorado police are beginning to take a harder line with property crimes. While the most recently available data shows that the rate of violent crimes in Colorado dropped in 2012, property crimes increased by 3.6%, and car thefts alone increased by 9.2% compared to the previous year. There were close to 12,000 cars stolen across the state of Colorado in 2012.
Law enforcement officials have also cited their focus on solving property crimes as a means to prevent future violent acts, stating that a large percentage of violent offenders started out as burglars and thieves before their “careers” escalated to more serious felonies. The police see their efforts as a means of potentially rehabilitating offenders before they begin committing more serious crimes.
How the New Forensics Lab Works
Because DNA can be recovered from body oils, skin cells, and bodily fluids, police often swab items and surfaces they believe a perpetrator may have touched at the scene of a crime. They are then able to send the samples to the Boulder forensics lab to be processed free of charge.
The forensics lab in Boulder began testing samples in October 2013 and has so far processed samples from over 300 cases, with 200 instances where samples were matched to DNA profiles in the FBI database. When lab technicians find a match, the police can use it as probable cause to ask for a DNA sample from a suspect. If that sample confirms the match, then the suspect’s DNA may become a key piece of evidence in the case.
DNA Evidence: Compelling, but Not Foolproof
If you’re arrested for a property crime on the basis of a DNA match in the FBI database, you may think there’s no possible way you’ll be found innocent. However, it’s important to recognize that even something like DNA sampling leaves room for human error, no matter how much federal oversight there is. For instance, if a police officer made an error in their collection of DNA samples, or if a DNA sample was obtained unconstitutionally, then the prosecutor would not be able to use that DNA as evidence against a defendant.
Even if a DNA sample was processed correctly and you are linked to the scene of a property crime, you won’t necessarily have to face the harshest sentence, provided that you have a good theft attorney on your side. Since the Colorado police have stated that their hard line against property crime is, in part, an effort to rehabilitate offenders before they turn into high-risk criminals, the judge may be willing to negotiate an alternative sentence that involves counseling and community service rather than prison time and steep fines.
If the police ask you to submit to DNA testing based on probable cause, contact a Denver defense attorney as soon as possible in order to protect your rights and fight against a disproportionately harsh conviction.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.