introduction to criminal forensic science
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Introduction to Criminal Forensic Science. Define and distinguish forensic science from other sciences Give a brief history of forensic science Describe the services of a typical crime lab Explain the role and responsibility of the expert witness. Objectives.

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Define and distinguish forensic science from other sciences

  • Give a brief history of forensic science
  • Describe the services of a typical crime lab
  • Explain the role and responsibility of the expert witness
what is forensic science

The application of science to the criminal and civil laws that are enforced by police in the criminal justice system.

  • Helps supply accurate and objective information that reflects events that have occurred at the crime scene
What is Forensic Science?
literary influences

Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Made scientific crime-detection “cool” and popular
  • A Study in Scarlet (1887)
Literary Influences
historical people and contributions

Mathieu Orfila: established forensic toxicology as a legit science (father of forensic toxicology)

  • Alphonse Bertillon: developed first system of personal identification based on a series of body measurements
  • Francis Galton: first definitive study of fingerprints and developed a system for classifying them
  • Karl Landsteiner: discovered that blood can be classified into groups later recognized as types A, B, AB, and O
  • Leone Lattes: developed a procedure for determining blood group of a dried blood stain
Historical People and Contributions

Calvin Goddard: comparison studies with bullets using a comparison microscope

  • Albert S. Osborn: principles of document examination and the acceptance of documents as scientific evidence
  • Hans Gross: described the application of scientific disciplines to criminal investigation
  • Edmond Locard: “Locard’s Exchange Principle”; whenever two objects come with one another, there is an exchange or cross-transfer of materials between them
crime laboratories

1932: FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover offered forensic services to all law enforcement agencies.

  • Oldest lab in U.S. is at the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) established in in 1923
Crime Laboratories
international crime laboratories

Great Britain: national system of regional laboratories under jurisdiction of Home Office

  • (not independent labs like in U.S.)
    • Metropolitan Police Lab (London)
    • Uses a fee for service model
  • Canada: 3 institutes (government funded)
    • Royal Canadian Mounted Police region lab
    • Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto
    • Institute of Legal Medicine and Police Science in Montreal
International Crime Laboratories
types of crime laboratories
State /Local


FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation in Quantico, Va.)

The Drug Enforcement Administration labs (DEA) of the Department of Justice

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) of the Departmen of Justice

U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service

  • N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI)
  • South Carolina law Enforcement Division (SLED)
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Crime lab
Types of Crime Laboratories
services provided by crime labs

Optional Services

Toxicology: determines presence or absence of drugs in body fluids and tissues

Latent fingerprint identification

Polygraph unit (lie detector tests)

Voiceprint analysis (voice comparison, text to speech)

Crime scene investigation unit (group of trained technicians)

  • Physical science unit: chemical testing of evidence
  • Biology unit: identify and perform DNA profiling, hair and fiber analysis, other biological materials
  • Firearms: ballistics tests, gun powder residue tests
  • Document examination
  • Photography unit
Services provided by Crime labs
duties of a forensic scientist

Analysis of physical evidence

    • Collect and preserve all evidence according to procedures
    • Testing of evidence
    • Maintaining chain of custody
    • Use underlying principles of scientific method to ensure that the outcome of an investigation is not tainted by human emotion or compromised by ignoring contrary evidence
    • Maintain perspective/limit bias/go where the evidence leads
Duties of a Forensic Scientist
admissibility of evidence

Frye vs. United States

    • Court must decide whether the questioned procedure, technique, or principle is generally accepted by a meaningful segment of the relevant scientific community
    • (called the Frye standard)
    • This was historically the challenge to the admissibility of the polygraph (lie detector) test
  • Federal Rules of Evidence (Rule 702) governs admissibility of all evidence including expert testimony
Admissibility of Evidence
judging the evidence

1993: Daubert vs. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Case asserted that Frye standard or general acceptance is not an absolute prerequisite to the admissibility of scientific evidence under the Federal Rules of Evidence

  • 1999: Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. Vs. Carmichael: trial judge determines the admissibility of scientific testimony as well as all expert testimony
Judging the Evidence

Has the technique or theory been tested?

  • Has the technique or theory been subject to peer review and publication?
  • What is the technique’s rate of error?
  • Is there documentation of the existence and maintenance of standards controlling the techniques operation
  • Is the technique or theory widely accepted within a relevant scientific community
what is expert testimony
Expert Testimony

Testimony: must be factual

Must be from personal knowledge (not hearsay)

Expert cannot render any view with absolute certainty

May offer opinion based on evidence/testing

Only advocate the TRUTH.

  • Expert witness: individual whom the court determines to possess knowledge relevant to the trial that is not expected of the average layperson
  • Competence: experience, education, professional memberships, published work
What is expert testimony?
other areas of service

Forensic Psychiatry

  • Forensic Odontology
  • Forensic Engineering
  • Forensic computer and digital analysis
Other Areas of Service