Forensic Science

What is Forensic Sceince?

Forensic Science is the application of scientific principles and techniques to matters of criminal justice especially as relating to the collection, examination, and analysis of physical evidence. With Forensics you can go into the government sector or private sector, both of which have many types of jobs dealing with Forensics.

Crime laboratories are scientific labs used primarily for the purpose of examining evidence from criminal cases. Crime labs have two sets of personnel Field analysts - investigators that go to crime scenes, collect evidence, and process the scene and Laboratory analysts - scientists or other personnel who run tests on the evidence once it is brought to the lab

The functions of a Forensic Scientist include:

  • Furnishing training on the proper collection of physical evidence
  • Analysis of physical evidence
  • Providing expert testimony.

Forensic Databases:

  • Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS)- contains bullet and cartridge casings that have been retrieved from crime scenes and test-fires of guns found at a crime scene or a suspect
  • Paint Data Query (PDQ)- contains the chemical compositions of paint from most domestic and foreign car manufacturers and the majority of vehicles marketed in North America
  • Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS)- contains fingerprints
  • Combined DNA Index System (CODIS)- enables Federal, State, and local crime labs to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically

Common Crime Scene and Physical Evidence

Crime Scene and Physical Evidence

Common types of physical evidence include:

  • DNA
  • Blood
  • murder weapon
  • Fingerprints

Forensic scientists use comparative analysis to determine whether or not the evidence has a common origin. Physical evidence is necessary to first determine the cause of a crime and then to use in court.

The most important thing about collecting evidence is protecting the crime scene and making sure it is unaltered. To record a crime scene forensic investigators take photographs of it, sketch the scene, and collect the evidence using proper techniques.

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Role of FBI and CSI

The central premise of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI's) Crime Laboratory is to successfully solve crimes, from investigations of alleged crime scenes through the convictions of perpetrators. Crime scene investigators, are on-the-scene professionals who are called to the scene of a crime to ensure that all physical evidence is properly collected, preserved and documented. They also ensure that all physical evidence is packaged and transported to a forensic laboratory.

Careers in Forensic Science

Forensic Science Technician

  • Assist with collection of evidence, conduct analysis and help investigate crime scenes
  • Also known as crime scene investigators
  • Earn between $32,000-$83,000 a year

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Bloodstain Pattern Analyst

  • Analyze patterns in blood
  • Determine type of weapon used, whether or not there was a stuggle, etc.
  • Earn between $32,000-$83,000
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Forensic Ballistics Expert

  • They identify the type of bullet used, the caliber, and manufacturer
  • Analyze whether a gun was fired or not, and if a specific bullet was used
  • Earn between $30,000-$80,000 a year

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Forensic Toxicologist

  • They identify causes of death to include poisons, chemicals, and alcohol.
  • Assist with prosecution of DUI and DWI arrests
  • Detect presence of drugs or alcohol in a suspect or victim's blood stream
  • Earn $30,000-$60,000+ a year

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There are many other careers with Forensics, but these were just a few.

What Crime Shows Get Wrong About Forensics

  • It takes a lot longer than a day or two to get the DNA tested
  • Fingerprints are hard to find
  • Blood doesn't glow under UV light
  • DNA and Fingerprints aren't always helpful
  • Forensic Analysts are not officers and are considered civilians
  • There is a lot of paperwork involved

Fun Facts

  • Glitter is the perfect trace evidence, because of its highly individualized characteristics.
  • Forensic Science is used to solve environmental crimes too.
  • Police dogs can locate decomposing bodies.