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The Impact of Forensic Evidence on Arrest and Prosecution

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2017
101 pages
In addressing the impact of forensic evidence on arrest, prosecution, and case outcomes, this study considered several of the recommendations of a NIJ-funded study entitled, "Forensic Evidence in the Criminal Justice Process" (Peterson et al., 2010).
The recommendations are addressed using a methodology that informs the following four objectives of the Peterson study: 1) Estimate the percentage of crime scenes from which one or more types of forensic evidence is collected; 2) Describe and catalog the kinds of forensic evidence collected at crime scenes; 3) Track the use and attrition of forensic evidence in the criminal justice system from crime scenes through laboratory analysis and then through subsequent criminal justice processes; and 4) Identify which forms of forensic evidence contribute more often (relative to their availability at a crime scene) to successful case outcome. In order to address these areas, the current study tracked the submission, analysis, and dissemination of forensic evidence for a significant number of cases in Connecticut. Although this study's methodology was similar to the Peterson et al. study, it differed in two important ways. First, in examining case file information, the coding of the existence of a witness included a dichotomous indication as to whether the witness named a suspect, and also recorded the presence of any suspect statement. Second, the current study included a qualitative second phase in which surveys regarding detectives' opinions of the utility of forensic evidence for arrest and prosecution were administered to detectives for comparison to the results of the quantitative analysis. This study examined the effects on arrest of various types of forensic evidence for the crimes of assault, burglary, and robbery, as well as the effects on conviction, plea/trial, and sentencing. 34 tables, 7 figures, and 50 references