Giancola-Durkin, P.A.

Anoka County Criminal Law Blog

Police using DNA dragnet to identify care patient's assailant

In the tragic situation at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix, it's understandable that the police would want to do everything in their power to solve the case. On Dec. 29, a patient in a persistent vegetative state gave birth after becoming pregnant at the nursing facility. The president of the facility resigned in response to the incident, and state health officials have required the facility to increase patient safety.

The Phoenix police, armed with a search warrant, are working to obtain the DNA of every male staffer who worked at Hacienda HealthCare during the period when the patient was impregnated.

Ballistic database being shared with police despite scientific issues

A recent story by NPR highlighted some issues with the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN), a huge ballistics database operated by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It contains high-resolution images of the marks left on bullets and shell casings fired by specific firearms. The idea is to allow users to match those bullets and casings to each other and, sometimes, to match them to a specific gun.

The problem isn't with the database itself. It is with the scientific underpinnings of ballistics evidence in general. In the NPR story, a police officer and an assistant U.S. Attorney comment that "the ejector mark is the fingerprint of the shell casing," and that "each firearm that shoots a bullet leaves an imprint that's unique to that firearm." That's the theory -- but the theory isn't backed up by science.

Consequences of an underage DWI

In Minnesota, getting a DUI while underage can have severe consequences for your future.

If a person under the age of 21 is pulled over, they can be convicted of a DUI even if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is below 0.8%. This is thanks to Minnesota's "Not a Drop" law and it carries severe penalties.

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