When scientific advances occur that may affect the legal system, there are often important questions that must be answered before those advances can be brought into widespread use. For example, a new computer program has been developed which can help law enforcement authorities untangle DNA samples from crime scenes which may contain the DNA of multiple individuals. This software uses groundbreaking technology, so its source code and other information about how it works are heavily guarded. This concerns lawyers and expert witnesses, because they must be able to understand the methodology behind the collection and analysis of evidence so that they can call its reliability into question if need be.
The debate around the new software, TrueAllele, exemplifies the tension that exists between lawyers and developers. On one hand, there are software developers with trade secrets who claim that giving lawyers access to a software’s source code offers no more insight into the software’s accuracy than the validation studies and peer-reviewed scientific journal entries that are often done for software like TrueAllele. However, expert witnesses and attorneys suggest that studies and journal entries do not provide enough information about how software like TrueAllele works, which makes it difficult to assess its reliability. This is concerning, to say the least, when authorities wish to use the software in cases where the guilt or innocence of a defendant charged with homicide or another serious crime hangs in the balance.
Mike Coover is an experienced DUI defense attorney and criminal defense lawyer with Coover & Associates. They have six different locations throughout south central Pennsylvania and also practice family law, divorce, real estate, and wills and estates.
We are an experienced Pennsylvania law firm focusing on Family Law, DUI Defense, Criminal Defense, and Social Security Disability.