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Forensic science (often called simply "forensics") is the application of various sciences and technologies to investigate situations after the fact and to establish what occurred. This is most often associated with criminal matters thanks, in large part, to well-publicized criminal cases and popular television shows like CSI, Law and Order, and Dexter. However, forensics are also carried out in other fields, such as accounting, construction engineering, and geology.
Many different professional and academic groups promote the use and validation of forensic science, including the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the Canadian Society of Forensic Science, the British Academy of Forensic Sciences, and the Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences.
Some of the best known examples of forensics in the courtroom include fingerprinting, DNA testing, and forensic accounting, but there are dozens -- possibly hundreds -- of others. A few examples include:
- Blood Spatter Analysis: the scientific examination of blood spray patterns found at a crime scene to reconstruct the events of the crime.
- Criminalistics: the application of various sciences to answer questions relating to examination and comparison of biological evidence, trace evidence, impression evidence (such as fingerprints, footwear impressions, and tire tracks), controlled substances, ballistics, firearm and toolmark examination, and other evidence in criminal investigations.
- Digital forensics: the application of proven scientific methods and techniques in order to recover data from electronic / digital media.
- Forensic accounting: the study and interpretation of accounting evidence.
- Forensic anthropology: the application of physical anthropology in a legal setting, usually for the recovery and identification of skeletonized human remains.
- Forensic archaeology: the application of a combination of archaeological techniques and forensic science.
- Forensic botany: the study of plant life in order to gain information regarding possible crimes.
- Forensic chemistry: the detection and identification of drugs, accelerants used in arson cases, explosive and gunshot residue, and other chemical evidence.
- Forensic dactyloscopy: the study of fingerprints.
- Forensic document examination: Also known as "questioned document examination," answers questions about a disputed document using a variety of scientific processes and methods, such as comparing questioned documents to known standards. The most common type of examination involves handwriting analysis, whereby the examiner determines authorship of a document based on comparison to examples of a suspected author's known handwriting samples.
- Forensic DNA analysis: Using an individual's DNA to answer forensic questions such as paternity/maternity testing or placing a suspect at a crime scene.
- Forensic engineering: the scientific examination and analysis of structures and products relating to their failure or cause of damage.
- Forensic entomology: using insects on and around human remains to assist in determination of time or location of death.
- Forensic limnology: the analysis of evidence collected from crime scenes in or around fresh-water sources.
- Forensic odontology: using dental records and the unique pattern of teeth to identify bite marks or bodies that are otherwise unrecognizable.
- Forensic podiatry: the study of feet, footprints, and footwear tread patterns and their traces to establish personal identity in forensic examinations.
- Forensic psychiatry/psychology: a specialized branch of psychiatry based on scientific criminology and using forensic methods to investigate criminal behavior.
- Forensic serology: the study of the bodily fluids.
- Forensic toxicology: the study of the effect of drugs and poisons on/in the human body.
- Forensic video analysis: the scientific examination, comparison and evaluation of video in legal matters.
There are dozens of other fields of forensic science, and the list grows and changes over time. Many principles of forensics that were once considered widely accepted have come into question over time and been discarded. Meanwhile, other areas are evolving and coming into use every year as new scientific discoveries are made or new technology develops.
Forensic Journals and Articles
- Forensic Science - Erroneous Handwriting Opinions?
Sometimes corners are cut when utilizing forensic science to "solve" an issue at hand. This can lead to life affecting mistakes as well as expensive blunders. It is important to utilize all the tools available in order to reach a valid forensic opinion
- Forensic Science - The Good and the Bad
Like any field, forensic science has both good and bad practitioners. If analysis results are based on science, and science is exact, then how can there be opposing experts in litigations?