Forensic sciences, legal discourses and the (re) configuration of citizenship

  • Machado H
  • Nunes J
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One of the outstanding features of the recent history of legal systems is the growing use of scientific resources to assist in the administration of justice. In particular, recent technological and scientific advances in genetics, such as DNA profiling and the production of genetic databases for forensic purposes have been associated with new forms of interaction between the social worlds of law and science. As in several other countries, genetic profiling is sometimes requested by the Portuguese courts, usually in serious crimes and in paternity suits. By focusing on the Portuguese magistrates’ perceptions of scientific evidence, this paper aims to raise some fundamental issues regarding the landscape of legal systems of the inquisitorial type. Indeed, we believe that the magistrates’discourses and perceptions of the potential uses of scientific resources to assist in courts services and the impact of that evidence on judicial outputs can indeed be quite different according to the framing legal culture. Through its focus on legal practitioners' discourses, this paper examines some of the issues raised by the incorporation of these scientific resources in judicial activity, as a social phenomenon located at the intersection of law, science, politics and public policy.

Author-supplied keywords

  • DNA profiles
  • Forensic sciences
  • Paternity suits

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  • Helena Machado

  • João Arriscado Nunes

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