Public Beliefs About the Accuracy and Importance of Forensic Evidence in the United States

28 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2019

See all articles by Jacob Kaplan

Jacob Kaplan

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Criminology

Shichun Ling

University of Pennsylvania

Maria Cuellar

University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: September 5, 2019

Abstract

Recent advances, especially the use of DNA technology, have revealed that faulty forensic analyses may have contributed to miscarriages of justice. In this study we build on recent research on the general public’s perceptions of the accuracy of 10 forensic science techniques and of each stage in the investigation process. We find that individuals in the United States hold a pessimistic view of the forensic science investigation process, believing that an error can occur about half of the time at each stage of the process. We find that respondents believe that forensics are far from perfect, with accuracy rates ranging from a low of 55% for voice analysis to a high of 83% for DNA analysis, with most techniques being considered between 65-75% accurate. Respondents still believe that forensic evidence is a key part of a criminal case with nearly 40% of respondents believing that the absence of forensic evidence is sufficient for a prosecutor to drop the case and that the presence of forensic evidence, even if other forms of evidence suggest that the defendant is not guilty, is enough to convict the defendant.

Keywords: forensic science, forensic evidence, CSI effect

Suggested Citation

Kaplan, Jacob and Ling, Shichun and Cuellar, Maria, Public Beliefs About the Accuracy and Importance of Forensic Evidence in the United States (September 5, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3448526 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3448526

Jacob Kaplan

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Criminology ( email )

483 McNeil Building
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Shichun Ling (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Maria Cuellar

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

483 McNeil Building
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

HOME PAGE: http://web.sas.upenn.edu/mcuellar/

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