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Prosecuting Cold Cases Using DNA

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About the Program

The Prosecuting Cold Cases Using DNA Program provides funding to prosecute violent crime cold cases and decrease the number of violent crime cold cases awaiting prosecution. Additionally, this program provides direct assistance to increase the capacity of state and local prosecuting agencies to address violent crime cold cases.

Grantees will receive support for the prosecution of violent crime cold cases where DNA from a suspect has been identified [suspect(s) may be known or unknown]. Provided that DNA from a suspect has been identified, funding will support investigative activities and crime and forensic analyses that could lead to prosecution.


  • State governments
  • Special district governments
  • City or township governments
  • County governments
  • American tribal organizations (other than federally recognized tribal governments)
  • American tribal governments (federally recognized)

Prosecuting agencies, law enforcement, state agencies, or local crime laboratories may partner with the agency that serves as the lead applicant for the award to work toward achieving the program goal of seeking resolution in violent crime cold cases. However, a prosecuting entity must be fully engaged in the project, either by the prosecuting entity being the lead applicant or by the prosecuting entity providing a letter of support to demonstrate engagement in the project.

Why Is the Program So Important?

There is a decline in the number of cases cleared and an increase in Part 1 violent crimes. There remains a crisis within the United States that needs to be addressed.

Investigating these crimes is unique and has many nuances. Including a prosecutor in every stage of a cold case investigation is critical. The National Best Practices for Implementing and Sustaining a Cold Case Investigation Unit guide recommends that a prosecutor be actively engaged with the investigations of cold cases, and, echoed from the publication Investigating Violent Crime: The Prosecutor’s Role, involvement of a prosecutor in violent crime investigations will ultimately enhance the outcome of a case.

Violent Crime Cold Case

While BJA generally defines a “violent crime cold case” as a case — such as a Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Part 1 violent crime, missing persons, or unidentified persons — that has remained unsolved for at least 3 years and has (1) the potential to be solved and/or prosecuted through the application of forensic techniques and/or technologies or (2) newly acquired information or advanced technologies to analyze evidence. Cases where all investigative leads have been exhausted prior to application deadline submission may also be considered by BJA.

Program funding may not be utilized for investigations in which a suspect DNA profile does not already exist, nor can it be utilized to establish/stand up cold case units; however, there are other BJA programs that support these activities – see the Forensic Sciences page for further information.

Date Created: June 14, 2022