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Best Practices for Handling “Cold Hits”


Cold case

  • Unsolved case
  • No new leads
  • Viable leads have been worked without resolution
  • The case is no longer being actively investigated

Cold hit

  • Evidence from an unsolved case matches an offender, evidence from another unsolved crime or evidence from another crime with a suspect
  • This can come from cases being actively investigated where the hit reveals a relationship between the cases not known before, or it may come from a case under current investigation and an old case (cold case) that is no longer being investigated.

Cold Hits Defined5

A DNA cold hit refers to an instance where one or more connections are made between a perpetrator and a crime scene in the absence of a current investigative lead. Crime laboratories receive notification of these cold hits and after a confirmation process the investigator is notified. The ability to manage and follow up on a cold hit has become a major concern for law enforcement leaders.6

It is ultimately the responsibility of the law enforcement agency that has the investigative jurisdiction of the cold case to resolve these hits.

The most important thing to do at this stage is to determine the probative value of the hit.

5 definition of cold hit: “When CODIS recognizes a match between an offender and forensic profile, it is referred to as a ‘cold hit.’ ”
6 Matthew Gabriel, Cherisse Boland, Cydne Holt, Beyond the Cold Hit: Measuring the Impact of the National DNA Data Bank On Public Safety At the City and County Level, 38 J.L. Med. & Ethics 396 Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics (Summer, 2010)  »

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