Caroline Walker

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It is likely that most professionals in all industries would agree that technology is rapidly evolving, most considering that assertion as a major understatement and some struggling to balance the variety of changes. In the legal realm, the DNA revolution has impacted both criminal prosecution and defense, specifically wrongful convictions, exonerations, proof of guilt at trial, and the reopening of cold cases. For example, since the first DNA exoneration in 1989, there have been 367 DNA exonerees in thirty-seven states to date. Forty-four percent of the exonerations involved misapplication of forensic science. Other law enforcement tools, such as rape kits or fingerprinting, have also benefited significantly as a result of the DNA revolution. But how will DNA technology continue to make its mark?

The decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in United States v. Hano signifies how much DNA technology and scientific advances are affecting the law, cases, and society. Theoretically, the holding in Hano enables prosecutors to reopen cases closed due to the lack of sufficient DNA tools and evidence that were necessary to proceed. In criminal cases, the statute of limitations normally and routinely commences at the time of the crime, however, with the Hano decision, the statute of limitations will now commence at the time that the testing of DNA implicates the alleged criminal. This shift in the initiation of statute of limitations significantly alters previous and future criminal proceedings.

Hano involves a couple of matters of first impression for the Eleventh Circuit, one including the DNA evidence and its effect on statute of limitations. On the first issue, the court of appeals held that the indictment was returned within the applicable limitation period due to 18 U.S.C. § 32976 and the implications of the DNA testing from the defendant.