Basics of Forensic Science

Sources:A Closer Look On Forensic Science written by Archana Singh

Introduction

Forensic Science is the application of sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology etc. Forensic Scientists examine how blood spatter patterns occur, learn the composition and source of evidence such as drugs and trace materials and also determine the identity of an unknown suspect . Forensic Science plays a important role in the criminal justice system by providing scientifically based information by analysis of evidences. During an investigation, evidence is collected at a crime scene, analyzed in a forensic laboratory and then the results presented in court . Each crime scene is unique, and each case is different, present its own challenges. Forensic Scientists should have the good eyesight and sharp mind for examination & analysis of evidences and crime-scene.

Fiction Writer, Chuck Palahniuk Summarized it:

Everything is a self-portrait. A diary. Your whole drug history’s in a strand of your hair. Your fingernails. The forensic details. The lining of your stomach is a document. The calluses on your hand tell all your secrets. Your teeth give you away. Your accent. The wrinkles around your mouth and eyes. Everything you do shows your hand.”

This is actually what Forensic Science is.

Definition of Forensic Science

• Forensic science is the study and application of science to matters of law.
• Forensic Science (or Criminalistics) is the use of science & technology to enforce civil & criminal laws.
• It is vast & hard to define because it includes so many other areas of science.

History of Forensic Science

Forensic science has developed over the past 300 years or so, and its processes continue to improve and evolve today as science and technology find better and more accurate techniques. In 1929 the first American forensic lab was created in Los Angeles by the police department.

Uses of Forensic Science

These days forensic science is used to investigate nearly all crime scenes. With the advancements of science, most forensic science techniques are a common and necessary part of a criminal investigation.

Importance of Forensic Science

There has always been a role for forensic science in criminal investigations, but with criminals committing clever, well thought out crimes more often, forensic science is now an essential tool for criminal investigations.

Branches of Forensic Science

Forensic Science involves almost every disciplines of science. We are going to have a look on some of disciplines which are commonly used:

1. DNA Analysis:

DNA as an evidence are highly used from very long time. they considered as a strong evidence. DNA are unique for everyone which make the forensic scientist job easy to match it with the suspect/victim/person. The biological evidence used for DNA profiling include hair, skin, semen, urine, blood, saliva and even body remains in burn cases.

2. Trace Evidence Analysis:

Every on knows the Locard’s Principle that “everything leaves a contact”. It is also one of the Laws and Principles of Forensic Science. Trace evidence analysis provides links to the perpetrator, such as human/animal hair, rope, soil, fabric fibers, feathers, building materials etc.

3. Forensic Toxicology:

Forensic Toxicology is the study of the presence of poisonous substance and the effect on the individual.

4. Forensic Psychology:

Forensic Psychology is the application of psychology to legal and criminal matters. Have you heard the term psychological autopsy? this is done in this division by forensic psychologist.

5. Forensic Pathology:

Forensic Pathology deals with the examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death, whether it is natural, criminal or accidental. Forensic Pathologist has to examine the wound to identify the weapon which caused the wound.

6. Forensic Linguistics:

Forensic Linguistics involves the application of linguistic knowledge to analyzing the written and spoken language of a suspect to know about his/her personality and other traits.

7. Forensic Entomology:

Forensic Entomology is the application and study of insects and other arthropods such as arachnids, centipedes, millipedes, and crustaceans to know the deat time and solve criminal cases.

8. Forensic Botany:

Forensic Botany includes everything leaves, flowers, wood, fruits, seeds, pollen for criminal investigation by examination and study of these.

9. Forensic Anthropology:

Forensic Anthropology’s main focus is human skeleton. work of forensic scientists is to examine human bodies/skeletons to help identify the individuals and the cause of death. They also determined the age, sex, race, and physique of an individual from the bones or bone fragments.

10. Digital Forensics:

Digital Forensics involves the extraction and analysis of digital evidence.

11. Forensic Ballistics:

Forensic Ballistics involves the analysis of bullets, bullet marks, shell casings, gunpowder residue etc to which helps in cases which involves Firearms.

What skills are involved in forensic science?

Forensic science uses a lot of different skills. These include:

🔎 Observational skills – to be able to find and compare evidence. To be able to discover things the untrained eye may miss.
🔎 Evidence collection and analysis – this is vital to the role of a forensic scientist. Evidence that is collected needs to be well documented and it is crucial that contamination of evidence does not occur. To collect evidence a forensic scientist needs to be methodical and accurate.
🔎 Scepticism – healthy scepticism is an important part of investigating crimes. Everyone is a suspect until something concrete proves otherwise. It is also important to understand that witness accounts aren’t always very accurate. It has been found that when referring to memories (such as during a witness account) most people have trouble getting all details correct and most people’s perceptions are based on their personal lives and values.

Tool kit for a forensic scientist

Those forensic scientists required to find, collect, protect and transport evidence from the crime scene require a kit of tools to use. Although each forensic scientist may do things a little differently, there are typical tools that they all use. These are:

✴ Crime scene tape to secure the scene and the are around which the crime took place.
✴ Camera and film to photograph scene and evidence.
✴ Gauges to place in photos to allow for recording of scale.
✴ Sketchpad and pens for scene sketches.
✴ Disposable and protective clothing (overall suits), face masks and gloves (usually latex gloves).
✴ Torch and other light sources such as laser, ultra violet (UV) and infrared (IR) lighting. These different lights can uncover certain types of evidence that normal torchlight won’t.
✴ Magnifying glass to help with finding trace evidence.
✴Tweezers for collecting evidence such as hair and fibres.
✴Cotton wool buds (cotton swabs) for collecting samples of fluid evidence.
✴Evidence bags (paper and plastic) and evidence tubes (plastic and glass) and marker pen to label evidence. This assists in keeping evidence uncontaminated and allows for safe and easy transport to the lab.
✴Fingerprint supplies this includes things like ink, print cards, lifting tape, dusting powders (there are a variety of these for different situations) and exposing reagents (such as luminol).
✴Casting kits for making casts of shoe/footwear prints, animal prints, tyres and tool markings.

Crime scene procedures

When investigators attend a crime scene, generally these procedure is as follows:

Preserving life – whatever the type of crime scene. The first priority is to preserve life and assist any victims if they are injured.

Suspects at the scene – suspects should be detained and removed from the scene. This also allows for searches, statements and behaviour to be documented.

Controlling the scene – the more people who come in contact or visit the crime scene, the more difficult it is to keep the site uncontaminated and for investigators to collect evidence.

Forensic Science is an interesting field but constant work, study and lots of patience required.

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Basic Forensic Science info

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