Science & Technology


The Orange County District Attorney’ Office is committed to utilizing the latest science and technology to solve crime, exonerate the innocent, and prevent future victimization.

The OCDA Science & Technology Unit furthers these goals by harnessing and integrating cutting edge science and technology to promote justice and enhance public safety. In addition to operating the OCDA DNA Database Program, the Science and Technology Unit also administers several other programs that facilitate public safety including the OCDA Rapid DNA Program, the Red Flags Conviction Integrity Program, the Investigative Genetic Genealogy Program, and the Body Worn Camera Program.

Recognizing that most crime is committed locally, in 2007, with the approval of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, the OCDA initiated a local DNA Database which stores the DNA profiles of defendants who provided a voluntary DNA sample as a term of a negotiated case disposition.  The OCDA DNA Database contains approximately 195,663 individual defendant DNA profiles which are routinely searched against crime scene DNA profiles.  The OCDA DNA Database has proven to be a robust tool for solving crime and enhancing public safety.  Since the database inception, the OCDA has provided DNA match information to law enforcement as an investigative lead on a variety of crimes including murders, sexual assaults, and other violent offenses.  Science & Technology Unit attorneys coordinate with law enforcement to facilitate the timely filing, where appropriate, of criminal cases. 

In 2014 the Science & Technology Unit implemented a Rapid DNA Program which uses a Rapid DNA instrument to generate a DNA profile from a crime scene DNA sample in under two hours.   This program capitalizes on the power of the OCDA DNA Database by quickly matching crime scene DNA profiles to individual and crime scene profiles in the database.  Match information is provided to law enforcement as an investigative lead, sometimes within just hours of the commission of a crime.


The Rapid DNA program is a public safety breakthrough that merges the power of the OCDA DNA Database with cutting-edge Rapid DNA technology that can provide investigators with DNA matches, including suspect names, within hours of a crime. 

  • Launched in 2014
  • Available to all local law enforcement.
  • Supported by Proposition 69 grant funding
  • Collaborative effort among;
    • OCDA
    • Orange County Crime Lab (OCCL)
    • And local law enforcement to harness the power of science and technology to promote justice and enhance public safety.

The OCDA purchased and, with the assistance of the Orange County Crime Lab (OCCL), validated for use an IntegenX RapidHIT 200 Rapid DNA instrument.  This instrument can generate a DNA profile from biological samples collected from a crime scene in less than two hours.  If suitable, that crime scene DNA profile is searched against the OCDA DNA Database, which was established in 2007 and is now the largest consensual DNA database in the country.

Orange County Crime Lab Takes Priority

A critical component of the Rapid DNA Program is the absolute requirement that law enforcement shall not collect a sample for the OCDA Rapid DNA Program unless sufficient sample remains after first collecting a sample for the OCCL.  Law enforcement are therefore trained to prioritize collection of DNA samples for the OCCL.

Example: If an apparent blood stain is observed at a crime scene, after swabbing the drop for the OCCL, law enforcement may also collect a separate swab for the Rapid DNA program only if sufficient sample remains.

Sample Types

Law enforcement are also instructed on the proper types of samples which may be collected and submitted to the OCDA Rapid DNA Program.   These include biological samples that generally would be expected to contain DNA from a single source such as blood and saliva.  As of year-end 2019, the OCDA has trained more than 780 Orange County law enforcement personnel from more than 30 law enforcement agencies on proper Rapid DNA sample collection, packaging, and submission procedures.

Rapid DNA Testing Process and Law Enforcement Notification

Prior to Rapid DNA testing, the OCDA Science & Technology Unit (STU) reviews the submission to ensure that it conforms to the requirements of the Rapid DNA Program.  Appropriate samples are then tested on the Rapid DNA instrument and developed DNA profiles, where appropriate, are searched by a STU forensic scientist against the OCDA DNA Database.  Matches to an individual or a crime scene are immediately reported to both the law enforcement agency which submitted the sample and the OCCL.

Rapid DNA Matches are Not Used in Court

DNA matches generated by the OCDA Rapid DNA Program provide law enforcement with pointers or investigative leads for identifying possible suspects.  These pointers facilitate not only law enforcement’s ability to solve cases but to do so with unprecedented speed.   These DNA matches, however, are not used as evidence in any court proceeding.  The OCCL tests the primary evidentiary sample that law enforcement collected before also collecting a Rapid DNA sample (reference OCCL Takes Priority section above).  When law enforcement receives a Rapid DNA “hit” notification, they are directed to independently collect a “confirmation” buccal swab from the suspect and to submit that swab to the OCCL for independent verification.  The OCCL tests the suspect confirmation swab, compares it to the primary evidentiary crime scene sample, and generates a report.   The only DNA evidence presented in court are the DNA test results independently developed by the OCCL.

Public Safety

All public safety experts appreciate the importance of speed to a criminal investigation.  As days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years pass without any identifiable suspect, the ability to solve a case dissipates.  Likewise, if good leads arise too late in the process, law enforcement often is unable to gather enough corroborating evidence to prosecute the case.

It is therefore critical to the success of a criminal investigation that a suspect be identified as soon as possible.  The OCDA Rapid DNA Program facilitates law enforcement’s ability to quickly investigate and solve crime by providing individual DNA matches shortly after a crime occurs.  Solving crime quickly benefits public safety tremendously.   Given what is widely known about recidivism, the ability to quickly identify and remove an offender from the streets prevents that offender from victimizing others.  Quickly apprehending criminal perpetrators also increases the chance of recovering stolen property and makes witness identifications of the suspect from a photo array more fruitful.  These benefits improve the chances for a successful prosecution thereby allowing the OCDA to hold the offender accountable.

Moreover, quickly identifying the perpetrator of the crime may serve to eliminate a person of interest previously thought culpable for the offense in question.  This is important because it alleviates the stress placed on innocent persons who may fall under suspicion while simultaneously saving valuable law enforcement resources that would otherwise be wasted on unsubstantiated leads.

Finally, the Rapid DNA Program also provides significant benefits for both crime victims and the community at large.  Victims, who suffer significant anxiety and fear, can at least have some relief from knowing that a suspect has been quickly identified and apprehended.


¹ This is exactly the same procedure used with CODIS hits.  DOJ CODIS test results are generally not introduced in court; rather, law enforcement must obtain an independent confirmation swab from the suspect and submit to the OCCL for comparison against the crime scene evidence.

Case: People v. Park 

Number: 20HF0362

Charges: Residential Burglary x 2, grand theft, vandalism, receiving stolen property, resisting arrest

Facts / Timing / How DNA Used: 

  • February 23, 2020 Residential burglary of a home in Irvine while 11 family members slept. Theft of $25,000 in property
  • February 25, 2020 2nd residential burglary in Lake Forest
  • February 26, 2020 Blood drop from the Irvine burglary  swabbed and sent to the  OCDA Rapid DNA Program
  • February 27, 2020 Rapid DNA testing of the blood drop and match to Park in the OCDA DNA Database.  Video from both burgs showed the same suspect
  • March 2, 2020 Park arrested 
  • March 3, 2020 Case filed and Park charged with 2 strike counts of residential burglary, grand theft, vandalism, receiving stolen property, and resisting arrest

Case Status:

  • June 2, 2020 Park Plead Guilty to all charges
  • Sentenced to 365 days in jail

OCDA DNA Collection Offense:

  • April 4, 2019 Misdemeanor offense of Hit and Run

Case: People v. Allard

Number: 18HF0459

Charges: Armed Robbery with use of a weapon and prior strike offense

Facts / Timing / How DNA Used: 

  • March 21, 2018 Defendant robbed a donut store clerk in Mission Viejo at knife point.  The donut shop cash register was recovered later that day in Lake Forest.  Apparent blood from the cash register was swabbed and sent to the OCDA Rapid DNA Program.
  • March 22, 2018 Rapid testing of the blood swab matched to Allard in the OCDA DNA Database.
  • March 26, 2018 Allard charged and arrest warrant issued 
  • March 27, 2018 Allard arrested on the warrant

Case Status:

  • April 19, 2018 Allard plead guilty to the robbery strike offense
  • Sentenced to 2 years SP

OCDA DNA Collection Offense:

  • September 27, 2012 Misdemeanor offense of Possession of a Meth Pipe

Case: People v. Ramirez

Number: 18NM03576

Charges: Indecent Exposure

Facts / Timing / How DNA Used: 

  • February 26, 2018 Woman reports someone exposing himself through a fence in her backyard, in plain view from her kitchen window.  Police collect swab of apparent semen from the fence and submit to the OCDA Rapid DNA Program
  • March 1, 2018 Rapid testing of the apparent semen swab and match to Ramirez in the OCDA DNA Database.  Defendant was linked to multiple other similar incidents.
  • March 6, 2018 Defendant charged with 3 counts of indecent exposure

Case Status:

  • November 19, 2018 Defendant plead guilty.
  • Sentenced to 514 days jail and life-time sex offender registration

OCDA DNA Collection Offense:

  • June 5, 2017 Misdemeanor offense of Lewd Conduct in Public Place

Case: People v. Arroyo

Number: 17CF0356

Charges: Armed Robbery of 3 victims, commercial burglary, vandalism

Facts / Timing / How DNA Used: 

  • January 26, 2017 Suspect jumps counter at Del Taco, armed with a knife, and threatens cashier before stealing money.  A cigarette butt was recovered near the front counter and send to the OCDA Rapid DNA Program
  • January 31, 2017 Rapid testing of the cigarette butt and match to Arroyo in the OCDA DNA Database
  • February 2, 2017 Arroyo also identified in a photo lineup
  • February 14, 2017 Charges filed and arrest warrant issued 03-22-2017 Munoz arrested
  • March 3, 2017 Arroyo arrested on the warrant

Case Status:

  • April 27, 2017 Arroyo plead guilty
  • June 5, 2017 Sentenced to 4 years state prison

OCDA DNA Collection Offense:

  • December 26, 2012 Misdemeanor offense of Driving Without a Valid Driver’s License

Case: People v. Sierra

Number: 16CF2475

Charges: Commercial Burglary - series

Facts / Timing / How DNA Used: 

  • September 17, 2016 Burglary of Mexican Consulate in Santa Ana.  This was the 5th in a series of same MO commercial burglaries around Santa Ana over the prior 2 months including an earlier burglary at the same consulate.  Suspect was captured on surveillance video but identity was unknown.  Blood drops located on window blinds near the point of entry swabbed and sent to the OCDA Rapid DNA Program.
  • September 19, 2016 Blood tested on Rapid and matched to Sierra in the OCDA DNA Database
  • September 21, 2019 Suspect arrested
  • September 23, 2016 Sierra charged with 5 counts of commercial burglary

Case Status:

  • October 3, 2016 Sierra plead guilty. 
  • Sentenced to 270 days jail and 3 years formal probation

OCDA DNA Collection Offense:

  • June 11, 2013 Misdemeanor offense of Providing False Information to a Police Officer

Conviction Integrity Program

The Red Flags program is one of several OCDA programs designed to ensure the integrity of our prosecutions and convictions.  A Red Flag occurs whenever there is an active or completed prosecution against one person and there is a new CODIS or OCDA DNA hit to a different person in the same case.   The Science & Technology Unit proactively reviews every new DNA hit and searches the hit by police case number against the OCDA Case Management System.  Any match to an active or completed prosecution against a different person is immediately flagged for review and logged to a specific Science & Technology Unit attorney trained in reviewing Red Flags.   The assigned attorney carefully reviews each Red Flag, along with the related police and crime laboratory reports, to evaluate the significance of the new DNA hit.  The goal of this review is to determine whether the person identified by the new DNA hit is merely an innocent contributor to the DNA sample (such as a victim, a witness, or another unrelated third party), an additional perpetrator of the crime, or possibly the true perpetrator of the crime thus exonerating the charged or convicted defendant.   Since program inception, the Red Flag Program has resulted in several exonerations and case dismissals. 

Investigative Genetic Genealogy is the most recent, innovative breakthrough in DNA technology.  Since April 25, 2018, investigations utilizing cutting-edge genetic genealogy techniques have literally changed the landscape of DNA case investigation.   To date, roughly 98 violent cold case crimes, primarily rapes and murders, have been solved nationwide through this revolutionary technique.   The Science & Technology Unit has proactively created an Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG) team composed of attorneys, investigators, crime analysts, forensic scientists, and a genetic genealogist to fully use this advanced technique, when appropriate, to solve violent cold cases that have remained unsolved for far too long.  IGG is also being used to identify previously unidentified cold case Jane and John Doe murder victims thereby providing closure to victims’ families.

While Genetic Genealogy clearly represents a monumental breakthrough in the ability to solve violent crimes, even crimes decades old, it is also true that using Investigative Genetic Genealogy to solve crimes has raised new privacy concerns.   The OCDA IGG team, however, is firmly committed to using this revolutionary technology responsibly and ethically and has implemented best practice procedures for using Investigative Genetic Genealogy in criminal investigations.  These best practices are designed to ensure not only furthering our mission of seeking justice and enhancing public safety but also safeguarding individuals’ privacy rights.  

Like DNA technology, Body Worn Camera (BWC) technology has proven to be an effective tool to improve the efficiency and accuracy of our criminal justice system.  Since 2016, the OCDA has worked collaboratively through the Integrated Law and Justice Agency of Orange County (ILJAOC) with our criminal justice partners including the Superior Court, Public Defender, and Orange County Law Enforcement to effectively manage the implementation of BWC programs throughout the county. 

While this partnership has focused on the unprecedented use of cloud sharing software to exchange massive amount of digital data with our criminal justice partners, it has also provided the opportunity to ensure consistent training, policies, procedures, and practices throughout Orange County.  The OCDA has taken the lead with respect to

  • continuing “Best Practice” training
  • efficient discovery procedures
  • official recommendations with respect to BWC evidence retention 
  • and operational safeguards to protect privacy.


DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid, a molecule contained in cells that gives the genetic code for life.  The DNA data that is stored in a forensic DNA database such as the OCDA DNA Database is a STR DNA profile.  A STR DNA profile consists of data from regions of DNA, called short tandem repeats (STRs), which are highly variable among individuals, allowing the information to be used for human identification.  These regions of DNA do not contain genes, thus information regarding hair color, eye color, ethnicity, and disease, among other characteristics, cannot be obtained from a STR DNA profile.

The DNA Collection Program collects DNA from mostly misdemeanor defendants who agree to provide a DNA sample as part of a negotiated case disposition.  In exchange for voluntarily consenting to provide a DNA sample, defendants are often offered a reduced charge or the chance to participate in a diversion program where the defendant has the chance to earn a complete case dismissal.  Defendants are under no obligation to accept a DA offer that includes providing a DNA sample and may seek an offer from the court.  Such court offers may or may not include providing a DNA sample for the OCDA DNA Database, at the discretion of the court. The individual offenders’ DNA samples are collected at OCDA staffed collection stations located inside each courthouse.

The Program is voluntary because the OCDA only collects DNA samples from individual who have voluntarily consented to provide a DNA sample as a term of a negotiated case disposition with either the OCDA or the Court.  The OCDA intentionally structured the DNA collection program based on knowing, voluntary consent.  All case dispositions, including those involving provision of a DNA sample, take place in the courtroom, after the 6th amendment right to counsel has attached.  Moreover, defendants complete two detailed written consent forms, one in the courtroom and another at the DNA collection station, before a DNA sample is collected.  The consent forms clearly explain the purpose of the collection and how the sample will be used.

Crime Scene DNA Profiles

Biological evidence, such as blood and saliva, collected at crime scenes is tested to develop DNA profiles.  These crime scene DNA samples are processed by the Orange County Crime Lab, and the crime scene DNA profiles are uploaded to the OCDA DNA Database.

Individual DNA Profiles

Buccal samples, collected from the cheeks of individuals as part of the OCDA DNA Collection Program, are processed by an accredited private forensic DNA lab, and the individual DNA profiles are uploaded to the OCDA DNA Database.

The Rapid DNA program aims to provide leads or pointers to law enforcement by developing DNA profiles from crime scenes in a matter of hours and searching the profiles against the OCDA DNA database.  It is available to all Orange County law enforcement agencies.  See Summary of Rapid DNA Program document for more information.