Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is planning a DNA database and has been provided with CODIS software by the USA. According to Interpol, also a DNA database legislation is planned.


  • press articles

Detailed Analysis

Prior to the introduction of DNA analysis as a means of determining paternity, Costa Rica utilized the significantly less accurate “blood group” method in cases of disputed parentage.<ref name="ftn1"> Ana Isabel Morales, Bernal Morera, & Gerardo Jiménez-Arche, La implementación forense de la tecnología del ADN en Costa Rica: Un análisis retrospectivo, 52 Rev. Biol. Trop. 695, 697 (2004).

</ref> When genetic technology became available in Costa Rica, the laws and regulations that had been enacted to accommodate the outdated technology<ref name="ftn2"> e.g. Código de Familia, Ley Orgánica del Organismo de Investigación Judicial, Código Procesal Penal [GET PROPER CITES]

</ref> were applied to the government’s applications of DNA analysis.<ref name="ftn3"> See supra note 414, at 697.


Between 1992 and 1993, acting on the advice of the scientific community, the Judiciary initiated the restructuring (both administratively and physically) necessary to allow forensic DNA analysis in criminal investigations and trials.<ref name="ftn4"> See supra note 414, at 697.

</ref> Around the same time, the Research Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Costa Rica began performing DNA analyses (specifically, deriving so-called DNA “fingerprints” or profiles).<ref name="ftn5"> See supra note 414, at 697-98; Angela Avalos Rodríguez, ¿Cómo demostrar la paternidad?, La Nación (Costa Rica), July 6, 1997.

</ref> Numerous profiles produced by the University’s genetic analyses were later admitted as evidence in Costa Rican courts.<ref name="ftn6"> See supra note 414, at 697-98.

</ref> While the bulk of the University’s work focused on paternity cases, they the government in criminal matters as well.<ref name="ftn7"> See supra note 414, at 968; see also J.F. Cordero, La ciencia al uxilio, La Nación (Costa Rica), July 31, 1995, at 10A; A. Marrero, Existía relación entre Ciro Monge, Karen, “Pimpo” y “41,” Diario Extra (Costa Rica), Aug. 10, 1995, at 8A.


Beginning in 1995, the government undertook a program to establish and equip a genetics laboratory under the auspices of Department of Judicial Investigation (el Organismo de Investigación Judicial) (hereinafter “OIJ”).<ref name="ftn8"> See supra note 414, at 698.

</ref> By the end of 1997, the Forensics Genetic Unit (Unidad Genética Forense) (hereinafter “UGF”) of the OIJ’s Department of Biochemistry (Sección de Bioquímica) was fully operational.<ref name="ftn9"> See supra note 414, at 702.

</ref> Like the University’s laboratory, the UGF assisted the Court in cases of disputed paternity as well as aided the OIJ in the course of criminal investigations.<ref name="ftn10"> See supra note 414, at 698.


Compared to the forensic technology formerly used by the Court and OIJ, the genetic analysis conducted by the UGF increased the certainty in paternity cases from 75 per cent to 98.8 per cent and in cases of identity inclusion/exclusion from 13.3 per cent to over 99 per cent.<ref name="ftn11"> See supra note 414, at 698-99.

</ref> In addition to work for the Court and OIJ, the UGF undertook a thorough study of the genetic makeup of the Costa Rican population.<ref name="ftn12"> See supra note 414, at 699.

</ref> Unlike previous population genetic analysis in Costa Rica, the UGF study comported with internationally-recognized standards of procedure and technology.<ref name="ftn13"> See supra note 414, at 699.

</ref> As such, it was the first to be acknowledged by the international forensic science community.<ref name="ftn14"> Ana Isabe Morales et al., Allele Frequencies of Markers LDLR, GYPA, D7S8, HBGG, GC, HLA-DQA1, and D1S8 in the general and minority populations of Costa Rica, 124 Forensic Sci. Int’l 1 (2001)

</ref> What’s more, it provided the basis from which UGF produced identification statistics in criminal investigations and trials.<ref name="ftn15"> See supra note 414, at 697-99; Bernal Morera et al., Genotype Profiles for the Costa Rican Population at 7PCR-baced Loci, 52 Rev. Bio. Trop. 713, 713 (2004) (observing that the study “supported the first application of [DNA] technology into the Costa Rican courtrooms”).


One of the unremitting problems the UGF faces is understaffing and insufficient funds. As such, in 2003 it took the laboratory an average of six months between receipt of sample material and delivery of a genetic profile report.<ref name="ftn16"> Supreme Council of the Judiciary, Session No. 31-03, Art. XLIV (Mar. 25, 2003).

</ref> Also, perennially tight budgets and the lag between the adoption of new technology between Costa Rica and more advanced nations, no uniform set of STRs was adopted as the basis of their DNA profiles.<ref name="ftn17"> See supra note 414, at 702.

</ref> The result is that, at least until the later half of the present decade, it was not possible to exchange DNA profiles with other nations due to incompatibility.<ref name="ftn18"> See supra note 414, at 702.


Costa Rica has no national or regional DNA databases, and continues to use DNA profiles solely on a case-by-case basis. However, there are indications that the OIJ is looking to establish a national DNA database. During the Sixth Meeting of the Iberoamerican Academy of Criminology and Forensic Studies in 2007, Dr. UGF head Marvin Zuniga Salas reported that he met with Mr. Thomas F. Callaghan of the FBI.<ref name="ftn19"> Supreme Council of the Judiciary, Session No. 42-07, Art. L (June 7, 2007), quoting Marvin Zuniga Salas, Note No. 0218-DCF-2007 (May 25, 2005).

</ref> During this meeting, Costa Rica’s acquisition of the CODIS software was disused. Dr. Salas’s report to his superiors states that he and Mr. Callaghan entered into a preliminary agreement whereby the FBI would provide the software to the Costa Rican government.<ref name="ftn20"> Id.

</ref> During the OIJ’s 2008 budget workshop, an oblique reference was made to an Electronic Archive of DNA Profiles for Criminal Investigations Project (Archivo Electrónico de Perfiles de AND para Identificación Criminal), however no subsequent reference to this project can be found anywhere.<ref name="ftn21"> High Councel, Act. No. 10, Art. IV (2008).