DNA Analysis

DNANational Academy of Sciences Report - See pp. 128-133 for the National Research Counsel's description of the forensic use of Deoxyribonucleic acid.

Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods (SWGDAM) - a group of approximately 50 scientists representing federal, state, and local forensic DNA laboratories in the United States and Canada. SWGDAM periodically issues new Interpretation Guidelines that crime labs then implement. The 2017 guidelines that supersede the 2010 guidelines are available on the SWGDAM website.

American Bar Association Standards on DNA Evidence - these ABA standards were published in 2007. They provide standards and best practices for the collection, preservation, and testing of DNA evidence and for its use at trial.

In Nov. 2017, the Royal Society published Forensic DNA Analysis: A Primer for Courts to assist the UK judiciary when handling DNA and serology evidence in the courtroom. The primer provides a good introduction to forensic DNA analysis, including a description of different types of DNA mixture interpretation software.

Starting Jan. 1, 2017, forensic labs that participate in the FBI's National DNA Index System (NDIS) increased the number of genetic markers analyzed from 13 to 20. Analyzing an increased number of genetic markers will make the DNA profiles more compatible with international DNA searches and will decrease the likelihood of a random match of two individuals within the NDIS database. For more information, see this NIST update.

Training Materials

DNA for the Defense Bar - this manual for defense attorneys was written by a group of experienced defense attorneys and DNA experts. Its approach to basic and advanced topics is easy to understand. In addition to explaining the science and techniques of DNA analysis, the manual offers advice on topics such as opening and closing statements, jury selection, and cross examination. This National Institute of Justice publication is available for free download here.

DNA Initiative A National Institute of Justice initiative that is now defunct, but provided information and training modules on DNA evidence. This training page contains a database of live seminars and recorded webinars offered by NIJ on various forensic topics, including DNA analysis.

The Principles of Forensic DNA Evidence: A Primer for the Law Professional - This virtual CLE is designed to provide a foundation in the principles and evaluation of forensic DNA evidence. It may be viewed for free or for a small fee for CLE credit. Dr. Max Noureddine describes basic concepts of human genetics, key terms related to DNA evidence, laboratory procedures, technologies that aim at increasing the reliability of forensic DNA testing, and some limitations of these tools. Participants will learn about the electropherogram and become familiar with basic profile comparisons as well as anomalies and artifacts that are often revealed in electropherogram data.

Making Sense of Forensic Genetics - this 2017 guide presents information about DNA forensics in a way that is accessible to both a general audience and legal professionals. It focuses on topics such as the context in which DNA evidence is discovered, DNA databases, statistics, and use of DNA to predict appearance or ancestry.

DNA Mixture Lessons - Boston University Biomedical Forensic Sciences has put lessons on interpretation of DNA Mixtures online. These lessons show many examples of the phenomena that they discuss, which is helpful for understanding this complex topic.

BBC Knowledge Explainer DNA - this 3 minute video explains the basics of DNA's form and function. Though the focus of this animated film is not forensic DNA, it gives important introductory information that is useful as a building block for understanding forensic DNA analysis.

NC-Specific Resources

Discovery Checklist - this checklist can help attorneys identify what DNA lab reports have benn received in discovery and what additional items may need to be requested.

Timeline of DNA Analysis in North Carolina - this document traces the development of forensic DNA analysis and its use by the NC State Crime Lab. It attempts to identify what technologies were available at what time. Information about the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Crime Laboratory is not included.

DNA Audit Summary - the State Crime Laboratory has posted its DNA Section Audit Reports (1999-2016) here. If you would like a summary of these audits, with issues that may be relevant to casework highlighted, email Sarah Rackley Olson.


  • Butler, J.M. (2005) Forensic DNA Typing: Biology, Technology, and Genetics of STR Markers, 2nd edition. New York: Elsevier. This text is relied upon by attorneys and forensic scientists using DNA analysis. It provides introductory information as well as detailed explanations of concepts such as allele drop out, low-copy number DNA testing, and mixture interpretation. It is available for use at the IDS Main Office.