Lately, people’s interest in forensics seems to have peaked, what with the amount of violence seen on the news, a variety of crime-related literature to explore, and various new Netflix series about serial killers coming out. However, many books seem to be devoted to the simpler areas of forensic science, so, for those who are interested, this article aims to shed more light on just how extensive the areas of forensic investigation at crime scenes can be depending on the crime committed.
Before diving into the various forensic investigation techniques, it is crucial to comprehend just what forensics is. Therefore, forensic investigation is the gathering and examination of all physical evidence related to a crime to draw conclusions about a suspect. Forensics is the scientific process utilized to solve crimes. In order to determine how a crime was committed, investigators will look at blood, fluid, fingerprints, residue, clothing fibers, tire tracks, weapon residue, drugs, chemicals, hard drives, computers, or other technology. As there is such a wide variety of evidence that can be gathered from crime scenes, there are many areas of forensic investigation and methods of gathering this proof. However, overall, forensic investigation is the process of legally establishing evidence that must be confirmed in court; this encompasses all types of investigations, from those involving financial fraud to homicide. The potential to find scientific evidence that may be sufficient to convict a criminal makes this field of study crucial for crime scene investigations. It can also assist in refuting out-of-date evidence and result in the release of someone who was wrongfully convicted.
Firstly, it can be argued that DNA forensics is the most well-known technique because DNA analysis is one of the best ways to identify a criminal. This approach is used when a perpetrator leaves behind hair, skin, blood, or anything else from their body. A DNA sample from this evidence is collected, and it is compared with DNA samples from potential suspects to identify the offender. Although this is an extremely effective means of investigating crimes, DNA is occasionally useless because of insufficient sample numbers or a lack of matches among suspects.
Another commonly used investigative technique is computer forensics, commonly referred to as digital forensics, which involves using computers to track out the perpetrator of a crime. Depending on the type of crime committed, investigators in this field use computers in a wide variety of methods. Computers are used to solve technological crimes like identity theft or scamming from a computer since these actions create a digital record that can be followed back to the criminal by computer forensics experts. Other uses of computer forensics involve entering information into it, such as fingerprints, and looking up matches in databases.
Forensic accounting, on the other hand, is an example of a more specific field of forensics where the investigation helps those who have been the victims of fraud or financial crimes. This type of analysis offers evidence to attorneys working on criminal and civil cases by using intelligence-gathering methods, accounting, business, and communication skills. In order to conduct their investigation, they go over a significant number of relevant figures, looking for anomalies or questionable financial practices. The crimes examined in this area range from tax evasion to theft of business assets, as well as large payouts and insurance claims.
Moving onto a more general area of forensics, forensic anthropology is a method of looking at bones to determine the way a victim died. This field is important when it comes to human studies, such as examining bones to see how a group of people died throughout certain historical eras. This approach is used in criminal investigations when the victim's skeletal remains serve as the only available evidence. Similar to forensic anthropology, forensic archaeology focuses on human remains, however, only on those that are severely decomposed. They mainly focus on clues they can glean from the bones, including carbon dating to determine their age. From these clues, forensic archeologists can sometimes establish cause-of-death; additionally, if a mass grave is discovered or in the event of large casualties, forensic archaeologists can identify the victims using facial recognition software.
Forensic dentistry is another field of forensics that deals with bones and is relatively straightforward. Forensic dentists are essential when a victim cannot be recognized in any other way and when a perpetrator bites a victim. Because of the distinctive patterns that teeth have, marks left behind can help identify either the perpetrator or the victim. Similar to how bone marrow and hair can be used to determine DNA, the shape of the jaw can likewise reveal age and gender. Physical evidence may still be helpful for forensic dentistry even if the victim was not bitten; for instance, a pencil with bite marks or a half-eaten apple may both have deep enough impressions to identify a person.
While many types of forensics delve into physical evidence, there are certain exceptions, one of which is forensic psychology. Since this branch of forensics focuses on the motivations that drive an attacker's behavior, when a crime is committed, forensic psychologists first investigate why the act occurred before focusing on how they can capture a suspect. They do this by examining potential causes of significant stress in the perpetrator's life that would have provoked violent behavior from them as well as by studying the crime scene, which might show them whether an act was carried out as a result of an emotional outburst or was premeditated. Once the person has been captured, a forensic psychologist is also able to determine whether the individual is of sound mind. Investigators can look at the victim's life and determine if their behavior was intentional or an accident, meaning that this field of forensics is equally valuable even in situations where suicide is suspected.
Forensics is also composed of a variety of different areas that are unrelated to evidence coming from a person’s body, and instead look at evidence that might be related to the criminal. One such area is forensic graphology, where people examine the handwriting on ransom notes, suicide letters, and blackmail demands. Though age and gender cannot be determined solely by looking at handwriting, this kind of evidence can indicate the writer’s state of mind at the time the note was penned. Handwriting can reveal clues about a person’s mood, motivation, integrity, intelligence, and emotional stability, all of which are significant factors to take into account when analyzing the circumstances surrounding a crime. Additionally, the slant, size of the writing, and weight of the hand are all elements that reveal information about the writer. Phrases and slang used also say a lot about the location and intent behind a crime. Forensic graphologists are also used to confirm the legitimacy of documents like insurance claims or police statements.
Finally, forensic toxicology studies toxic substances, environmental chemicals, and poison. A common example of the most basic forensic toxicology is the drug testing required for some job applications. Nowadays, a sizable part of a forensic toxicologist’s job is studying drugs, both illegal and legal. Experts can examine a substance’s absorption, distribution, and elimination by the body in addition to its effects using urine, blood, or hair. For a murder, drug usage can be revealed by looking at the brain, liver, and spleen.
There is a great variety of fields when it comes to investigating crime scenes; this is a brief overview of a few methods of forensic investigation, so it would be wise to conduct further research on this topic if you are still interested in learning more. However, hopefully, this article was illuminating and showed just how interesting this area can be. If you wish to read more about these areas of forensic science, take a look at the sources linked below!