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Forensic firearm examination

Forensic firearm examination is the forensic process of examining the characteristics of firearms as well as any cartridges or bullets left behind at a crime scene. Specialists in this field are tasked with linking bullets and cartridges to weapons and weapons to individuals. Obliterated serial numbers can be raised and recorded in an attempt to find the registered owner of the weapon. Examiners can also look for fingerprints on the weapon and cartridges, and then viable prints can be processed through fingerprint databases for a potential match.

By examining unique striations, or markings, left behind on the bullet as it passes through the barrel and on the cartridge as it is hit by the firing pin, individual spent rounds can be linked back to a specific weapon. Known exemplars taken from a seized weapon can be directly compared to samples recovered from the scene using a comparison microscope. Striation images can also be uploaded to any existing national databases. Furthermore, these markings can be compared to other images in an attempt to link one weapon to multiple crime scenes. Like all forensic specialties, forensic firearm examiners are subject to being called to testify in court as expert witnesses.


The ability to compare ammunition is a direct result of the invention of rifling around the turn of the 16th century.[1] By forcing the bullet to spin as it travels down the barrel of the weapon the bullet's accuracy greatly increases. At the same time, the rifling leaves marks on the bullet that are indicative of that particular barrel. Prior to mass production of firearms, each barrel and bullet mold was hand made by gunsmiths making them unique.[2] The first successful documented case of forensic firearm examination occurred in 1835 when a member of the Bow Street Runners in London matched a recovered bullet from a murder victim to a specific mold in a suspect's home confirming that he made the bullet. Further evidence that the bullet maker was the perpetrator was found in his home and he was convicted.[1] As manufacturing and automation replaced hand tools, the ability to compare bullets became impossible due to the standardization of molds within a specific company. However, experts in the field postulated that there were microscopic differences on each barrel left during the manufacturing process. These differences were a result of wear on the machines and since each new weapon caused a tiny amount of wear, each barrel would be slightly different from every other barrel produced by that company.[2] Also, each bullet fired from a specific barrel would be printed with the same marks, allowing investigators to identify the weapon that fired a specific bullet.[3]

One of the first uses of this knowledge was in 1915 to exonerate Charles Stielow of the murder of his neighbors. Stielow was sentenced to death and appealed to Charles S. Whitman, the Governor of New York, who was not convinced by the evidence used to convict Stielow. Whitman halted the execution until an inquiry could be conducted and after further examination it was shown that Stielow's firearm could not have fired the bullets recovered from the victims.[4] The invention of the comparison microscope by Calvin Goddard and Phillip O. Gravelle in 1925 modernized the forensic examination of firearms.[5] Simultaneous comparison of two different objects at the same time allowed to closely examine striations for matches and therefore make a more definitive statement as to whether or not they matched.

One of the first true tests of this new technology was in the aftermath of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929. During the Prohibition Era, competing gang members were fighting over bootlegging operations within the city of Chicago. Members of the Chicago Outfit and the Egan's Rats led by Al Capone attempted to remove all competition from Chicago by eliminating the North Side Gang leader Bugs Moran.[6] [7] The massacre missed Moran, who was not present, but killed seven members of the North Side Gang. The murderers attempted to cover up their crime by posing as police officers, even dressing in police uniforms.[7] Witnesses saw two "officers" leaving the scene, which implicated the Chicago police department as the perpetrators of the massacre. High levels of police corruption during that time period made it seem likely that the police department committed the killings.[7] The investigation stalled until December 1929 when Fred Burke, a member of the Egan's Rats, shot and killed a police officer in St. Joseph, Michigan. Officers searching for Burke were led to a home in nearby Stevensville. While Burke was not there, inside officers found an arsenal of weapons including two Thompson submachine guns.[7] The Chicago police department was contacted and the weapons were brought back to Chicago for testing. Goddard was asked to compare the weapons to collected evidence found at the massacre using his new "ballistic-forensics" technique. After test firing the guns, Goddard proved that the weapons were those used to kill the members of the North Side Gang, absolving the Chicago police department of all involvement.[7] The successful use of Goddard's technique resulted in the solidification of his place as the father of forensic firearm examination.[8]

Examination of the firearm
Multiple serial numbers provide redundancy and make it difficult to fully remove the numbers from a weapon.

Any firearm collected during the course of an investigation could yield viable evidence if examined. For forensic firearm examination specific evidence that can be recovered include weapon serial numbers and potentially fingerprints left on the weapon's surface.

Fingerprint recovery

Fingerprint recovery from the surface of firearms is done with cyanoacrylate (more commonly known as superglue) fuming.[9] Firearms are placed in a specially designed fume hood designed to evenly distribute fumes instead of removing them. Liquid superglue is placed in a container and heated until it is in a gaseous state. The circulating fumes adhere to the oils left behind by the fingerprint, turning the print white.[10] The resulting white print can be enhanced with fingerprint powder to increase the contrast of the white print against the weapon's finish.[9] While using the fuming technique on recovered guns is commonplace, the recovery of fingerprints from the surfaces of a firearm is challenging due to the textured grip and the general condition of recovered weapons.[9] [11] If fingerprints are recovered, they can be processed through fingerprint databases such as the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). Various parts of the recovered weapon can also be tested for touch DNA left by whomever handled it. However, the low levels of DNA that can be recovered presents numerous issues such as contamination and analysis anomalies such as allele drop-out and drop-in.[12]

Serial number recovery

Serial numbers became commonplace after the United States passed the Gun Control Act of 1968. This law mandated that all guns manufactured or imported into the country have a serial number.[13] :1223 Prior to 1968, many firearms either did not have a serial number or the serial numbers were not unique and were reused by a manufacturer on multiple firearms.[14] If a recovered weapon has had the serial numbers altered or destroyed, examiners can attempt to recover the original numbers. The two main methods for the restoration of serial numbers are magnetic particle inspection and chemical restoration.[15] It is recommended that magnetic particle inspection be performed first due to the nondestructive nature of the method.[16] If magnetic particle inspection fails, chemical restoration is the next step in the forensic analysis.

If the serial number is successfully restored it can be used to help investigators track the weapon's history, as well as potentially determine who owns the weapon. Firearm databases such as the National Crime Information Center of the United States and INTERPOL's Firearm Reference Table can be used by investigators to track weapons that have been lost, stolen, or used previously in other crimes.[17] [18]

Magnetic particle inspection

Originally developed as a method to detect flaws or irregularities in magnetic materials, magnetic particle inspection can be used on firearms to visualize the serial number underneath the obliterated area.[16] When performing this technique, examiners place the weapon in a magnetic field. The irregularities in the metal, in this case the serial number, cause the field to deform.[16] When a solution of ferrous particles is added to the weapon's magnetized surface they will be attracted to the area where the magnetic field has deformed and will build up in the area.[19] If fluorescent particles are added to the ferrous solution, ultraviolet light can be used to make it easier to visualize any recovered serial number.[19]

Chemical restoration

Chemical restoration is a type of chemical milling. Typically, chemical milling is used to slowly remove material to create a desired shape. In serial number restoration, small amounts of metal are removed until the serial number is brought back to the surface. This can be performed due to the depth that serial numbers are engraved into the weapon. However, chemical restoration is limited by that depth and is only successful when the obliteration of the serial number is superficial.[20] Examiners performing a restoration first sand the area where the serial number used to be. This removes any debris from the area left when the serial number was obliterated.[21] The examiner then chooses a chemical, usually an acid,[21] that will be used to slowly bring the number back to the surface. The type of chemical that is used depends on the material the weapon is made of. These acids can range from Fry's Reagent for a magnetic metal,[15] which is a mixture of hydrochloric acid, cupric chloride, and distilled water,[22] to an acidic ferric chloride solution for a non-magnetic, non-aluminum material.[15]

Examination of cartridges
Two test-fired cartridges under magnification. Matching striations can be seen.

Spent cartridges found at a scene can be examined for physical evidence such as fingerprints or compared to samples that match them to a weapon. The examination of the cartridge relies on the unique tool marks left by the various parts of the weapon including the firing pin and the ejector in semi and fully automatic firearms. These markings can be compared and matched to known exemplars fired from the same weapon using the same parts.[23] :151 The examination of the marks left on the cartridge is done using a comparison microscope. Examiners view the questioned cartridge and the known exemplar simultaneously, looking for similar microscopic marks left during the firing process.[23] :152

Example of microstamping. Insert shows a close up of the serial number imprinted into the cartridge.

Cartridges are also routinely examined for fingerprints as the act of loading the ammunition into the magazine, or chamber, leaves recoverable impressions. These fingerprints can survive the firing processes and, while a rare occurrence, fingerprints have been obtained from cartridges recovered from the scene.[24] Cartridges are subjected to cyanoacrylate fuming and examined for any usable prints. Usable prints are photographed and can be uploaded to fingerprint databases such as IAFIS for comparison with known exemplars. Cartridges can also be swabbed for trace DNA left by the individual who loaded the magazine. The extremely low levels of recoverable DNA present the same issues as swabbing a firearm for DNA.[12]

Advancements in microscopic stamping have led to a push for the inclusion of firing pin microstamping.[25] :16 The microstamp is etched onto the firing pin and is transferred to the cartridge during the firing process. Each firing pin would have a unique serial number allowing investigators to trace casings found at a crime scene to a known firearm.[25] :17 The practice is not in use as of 2017, although California has enacted legislation that requires microstamping on all newly sold firearms.[26] The law, and microstamping in general, has received significant opposition from gun manufacturers due to increased costs associated with introducing the microstamps into the manufacturing lines.[27]

Examination of bullets
Rifing pattern for a Remington rifle showing a clockwise (right-handed) twist.
Class characteristics

Preliminary examination of the bullet can exclude a large number of weapons by examining the general characteristics of a recovered bullet. By determining general aspects of the fired ammunition, a number of weapons can be immediately excluded as being incapable of firing that type of bullet. The make and model of the weapon can also be inferred from the combination of different class characteristics that are common to specific manufactures.[28] :32 The three main class characteristics of all bullets are the lands and grooves, the caliber of the bullet, and the rifling twist.[29] All three can be tied directly to the type of barrel that was used to fire the bullet.[29] The lands and grooves of barrel are the bumps and valleys created when the rifling is created. The caliber is the diameter of the barrel. The twist is the direction of the striations left by the barrel's rifling, clockwise (right-handed) or counterclockwise (left-handed). Most barrels will have a right-handed twist with the exception of weapons created by the Colt's Manufacturing Company which uses left-handed twists.[28] :29 Weapon barrels that match the class characteristics of recovered bullets can be examined further for individual characteristics to determine if the bullet came from that particular weapon.

Individual characteristics

In order to compare individual striations, examiners must obtain a known sample using the seized weapon. For slower-traveling bullets, such as pistols or revolvers, known bullet exemplars are created by firing the weapon into a water tank.[30] The spent bullet can be recovered, intact, as the water slows down the bullet before it can reach the tank walls, allowing for it to be recovered. For faster traveling bullets, such as those fired from high-powered rifles and military style weapons, water tanks cannot be used as the tank will not provide enough stopping power for the projectiles.[31] To examine these weapons, investigators must fire them at a target at a controlled range with enough backing to stop the bullet and collect the spent round after it has been fired.[30]

Once a known exemplar is produced, the evidence sample can be compared to the known by examining both at the same time with a comparison microscope. Striations that line up are examined more closely, looking for multiple consecutive matches. There is no set number of consecutive matches that equates to a match declaration, and examiners are trained to use the phrase "sufficient agreement" when testifying. The degree to which an examiner can make that determination is based on their training and expertise.[23] :153 All findings by examiners are subject to questioning by both sides, prosecution and defense, during testimony in court.

Striation databasing

Bullets and casings found at a scene require a known example to compare to in order to match them to a weapon. Without a weapon, the striation pattern can be uploaded to a database such as the National Integrated Ballistic Identification Network (NIBIN) maintained by the ATF or the United Kingdom's National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS). Information uploaded to these databases can be used to track gun crimes and to link crimes together.[32] [33] Maintainers of these databases recommend that every recovered firearm be test fired and the resulting known exemplar be uploaded into the database.[34]


Firearm examiners have attempted to determine the shooter's position by the location of spent bullet casings. The use of ejection pattern studies were originally part of incident reconstruction and methods for determining shooter location continue to be explained in major crime scene examination books.[35] However, the validity of ejection pattern analysis has been brought into question by multiple studies that look at the reproducibility and end determination of shooter position by qualified examiners. Studies have shown that over 25% of spent casings land somewhere other than to the right and rear of the shooter.[36] This is the most commonly accepted location for where spent cartridge casings should fall, and the large percentage of casings that end up somewhere else raises concerns for the validity of the examination technique. Investigators should only present a location gained from an ejection pattern study as a tentative estimate when using the information in a courtroom setting.[36]

Prior to September 2005, comparative bullet-lead analysis was performed on bullets found at a scene that were too destroyed for striation comparison. The technique would attempt to determine the unique elemental breakdown of the bullet and compare it to seized bullets possessed by a suspect.[37] Review of the method found that the breakdown of elements found in bullets could be significantly different enough to potentially allow for two bullets from separate sources to be correlated to each other. However, there is not enough differences to definitely match a bullet from a crime scene to one taken from a suspect's possession.[38] An additional report in 2004 from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) found that the testimony given regarding comparative bullet-lead analysis was overstated and potentially "misleading under the federal rules of evidence".[37] In 2005, the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicated that they would no longer be performing this type of analysis.[39]

Further criticism came from the 2009 NAS report on the current state of various forensic fields in the United States. The report's section on firearm examination focused on the lack of defined requirements that are necessary in order to determine "matches" between known and unknown striations. The NAS stated that, "sufficient studies have not been done to understand the reliability and repeatability of the methods."[23] :154 Without defined procedures on what is and what isn't considered "sufficient agreement" the report states that forensic firearm examination contains fundamental problems that need to be addressed by the forensic community through a set of repeatable scientific studies that outline standard operating procedures that should be adopted by all firearm examiners.[23] :155 Another report issued in 2016 by the United States President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology confirmed the NAS's findings, finding only one appropriately designed study that examined the rate of false positives and reliability amongst firearm examiners.[40]

See also
  1. Hamby, James (Summer 1999). "The History of Firearm and Toolmark Identification". Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners Journal. 31 (3). Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  2. Steele, Lisa (2008). "Ballistics" (PDF). Science for Lawyers. American Bar Association. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  3. Thompson, Robert (2010). "Firearm Identification in the Forensic Science Laboratory" (PDF). National District Attorneys Association. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  4. Borchard, Edwin (1932). "Stielow and Green" (PDF). Convicting the Innocent: Errors of Criminal Justice. New Haven Yale University Press. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  5. "Comparison Microscopy". National Forensic Science Technology Center. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  6. O'Brien, John (February 14, 2014). "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre". The Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  7. Ashcroft, Brent. "St. Valentine's Day Massacre: Tale of two guns". WZZM13. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  8. Rasmussen, Frederick N. (February 12, 2011). "Baltimore native helped solve 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  9. "In the Public Eye: Finding Fingerprints on Firearms is Actually Very Rare". Forensic Magazine. September 2, 2015. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  10. "CYANOACRYLATE (SUPERGLUE) FUMING". Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  11. Gulick, Gary (May–June 2008). "Lifting Latent Fingerprints from Difficult Surfaces". Evidence Technology Magazine. 6 (3). Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  12. "Development of STR profiles from firearms and fired cartridge cases". Forensic Science International: Genetics. 3 (4): 242–250. September 2009. doi:10.1016/j.fsigen.2009.02.007.
  13. "Public Law 90-618: To amend title 18, United States Code, to provide for better control of the interstate traffic in firearms" (PDF). October 22, 1968. pp. 1213–1236. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  14. "Firearms Tracing Guide". Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. November 2011. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  15. "Technical Procedure for Serial Number Restoration". North Carolina State Crime Laboratory. September 5, 2014. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  16. Walker, Robert E. (2013). Cartridges and Firearm Identification. CRC Press. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  17. "INTERPOL Firearms Reference Table (IFRT)". INTERPOL. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  18. "NCIC Files". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on February 20, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  19. Utrata, Dave; Johnson, Marcus (October 2003). "Magnetic Particle Recovery of Serial Numbers". Midwest Forensics Resource Center. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
  20. "Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Criminalistics Laboratory Firearm & Toolmark Section Restoration of Obliterated Serial Numbers". Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  21. "Serial Number Restoration". Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  22. "FEU08 – SOP for Serial Number Restoration of Obliterated Stampings in Various Metal Surfaces" (PDF). District of Columbia Department of Forensic Sciences. November 26, 2013. p. 2. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  23. National Research Council (2009). Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward (PDF). National Academies Press. ISBN 0-309-13131-6. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  24. Randerson, James (June 3, 2008). "Forensics: Fingerprints can be recovered from fired bullet casings". The Guardian. Retrieved June 18, 2016.
  25. Cracking the Case: The Crime-Solving Promise of Ballistic Identification (PDF) (Report). The Education Fund to Stop Gun Violence. June 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 14, 2008. Retrieved June 18, 2016.
  26. Crime Gun Identification, Bill No. 1471 of 2007. Retrieved on June 18, 2016.
  27. Mather, Kate (January 23, 2014). "Smith & Wesson says it won't follow California 'microstamping' law". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 18, 2016.
  28. DiMaio, Vincent J.M. (2016). Gunshot Wounds: Practical Aspects of Firearms, Ballistics, and Forensic Techniques (3rd ed.). CRC Press. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  29. "Firearms & Tool Mark". North Carolina Department of Justice. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  30. "Firearms and Toolmarks in the FBI Laboratory". Forensic Science Communications. 2 (2). April 2000. Archived from the original on September 20, 2015. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  31. Fisher, Barry A.J.; Tilstone, William J.; Woytowicz, Catherine (2009). Introduction to Criminalistics: The Foundation of Forensic Science. Elsevier Academic Press. p. 39. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  32. Thomas, Dylan (February 25, 2016). "A high-tech approach to tracking gun crimes". Southwest Journal. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  33. "Intelligence service links 350 guns to crimes". BBC News. January 11, 2010. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  34. "Bullets, Casings, and You". Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  35. Gardner, Ross (2012). Practical Crime Scene Processing and Investigation (2nd ed.). CRC Press. pp. 300–301. Retrieved May 28, 2016.
  36. Lewinski, William; Hudson, William; Karwoski, David; Redmann, Christa (November 2010). "Fired Cartridge Case Ejection Patterns From Semi-Automatic Firearms" (PDF). Investigative Sciences Journal. 2 (3). Retrieved May 28, 2016.
  37. Solomon, John (November 18, 2007). "FBI's Forensic Test Full of Holes". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  38. Randich, Erik; Duerfeldt, Wayne; McLendon, Wade; Tobin, William (July 17, 2002). "A Metallurgical Review of the Interpretation of Bullet Lead Compositional Analysis". Forensic Science International. 127 (3): 174–191. doi:10.1016/S0379-0738(02)00118-4.
  39. "FBI Laboratory Announces Discontinuation of Bullet Lead Examinations" (Press release). FBI National Press Office. September 1, 2005. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  40. Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods (PDF) (Report). President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. September 2016. pp. 104–114. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 12, 2017. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
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Forensic firearm examination


Forensic firearm examination is the forensic process of examining the characteristics of firearms as well as any cartridges or bullets left behind at a crime scene . Specialists in this field are tasked with linking bullets and cartridges to weapons and weapons to individuals. Obliterated serial numbers can be raised and recorded in an attempt to find the registered owner of the weapon. Examiners can also look for fingerprints on the weapon and cartridges, and then viable prints can be processed through fingerprint databases for a potential match. By examining unique striations, or markings, left behind on the bullet as it passes through the barrel and on the cartridge as it is hit by the firing pin, individual spent rounds can be linked back to a specific weapon. Known exemplars taken from a seized weapon can be directly compared to samples recovered from the scene using a comparison microscope . Striation images can also be uploaded to any existing national databases. Furthermore, these markings can be comp ...more...

Forensic science


Forensic science is the application of science to criminal and civil laws , mainly—on the criminal side—during criminal investigation , as governed by the legal standards of admissible evidence and criminal procedure . Forensic scientists collect, preserve, and analyze scientific evidence during the course of an investigation. While some forensic scientists travel to the scene of the crime to collect the evidence themselves, others occupy a laboratory role, performing analysis on objects brought to them by other individuals. In addition to their laboratory role, forensic scientists testify as expert witnesses in both criminal and civil cases and can work for either the prosecution or the defense. While any field could technically be forensic, certain sections have developed over time to encompass the majority of forensically related cases. Forensic science is the combination of two different Latin words: forensis and science. The former, forensic, relates to a discussion or examination performed in public. B ...more...

Questioned document examination


In forensic science , questioned document examination ( QDE ) is the examination of documents potentially disputed in a court of law . Its primary purpose is to provide evidence about a suspicious or questionable document using scientific processes and methods. Evidence might include alterations, the chain of possession, damage to the document, forgery, origin, authenticity, or other questions that come up when a document is challenged in court. Overviews Many QD examinations involve a comparison of the questioned document, or components of the document, to a set of known standards. The most common type of examination involves handwriting wherein the examiner tries to address concerns about potential authorship. A document examiner is often asked to determine if a questioned item originated from the same source as the known item(s), then present their opinion on the matter in court as an expert witness. Other common tasks include determining what has happened to a document, determining when a document was pro ...more...

Outline of forensic science


The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to forensic science: Forensic science – application of a broad spectrum of sciences to answer questions of interest to a legal system. This may be in matters relating to criminal law, civil law and regulatory laws. it may also relate to non-litigious matters. The term is often shortened to forensics . Nature of forensic science General forensics topics include: Crime – breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority (via mechanisms such as legal systems ) can ultimately prescribe a conviction . Crime scene – location where an illegal act took place, and comprises the area from which most of the physical evidence is retrieved by trained law enforcement personnel, crime scene investigators (CSIs) or in rare circumstances, forensic scientists. Mortuary investigations laboratory examinations CSI effect – phenomenon of popular television shows such as the CSI franchise raising the public's expectations of forensic science , stemming ...more...

Forensic pathology


Forensic pathology is pathology that focuses on determining the cause of death by examining a corpse. A post mortem is performed by a medical examiner , usually during the investigation of criminal law cases and civil law cases in some jurisdictions . Coroners and medical examiners are also frequently asked to confirm the identity of a corpse. Also see forensic medicine . Duties Forensic pathology is an application of medical jurisprudence . A forensic pathologist is a medical doctor who has completed training in anatomical pathology and has subsequently specialized in forensic pathology. The requirements for becoming a "fully qualified" forensic pathologist vary from country to country. Some of the different requirements are discussed below . The forensic pathologist performs autopsies/postmortem examinations to determine the cause of death . The autopsy report contains an opinion about the following: The pathologic process, injury, or disease that directly results in or initiates a series of events that lea ...more...

Forensic anthropology


Forensic anthropology is the application of the anatomical science of anthropology and its various subfields, including forensic archaeology and forensic taphonomy , in a legal setting. A forensic anthropologist can assist in the identification of deceased individuals whose remains are decomposed, burned, mutilated or otherwise unrecognizable, as might happen in a plane crash. Forensic anthropologists are also instrumental to the investigation and documentation of genocide and mass graves . Along with forensic pathologists , forensic dentists , and homicide investigators, forensic anthropologists commonly testify in court as expert witnesses . Using physical markers present on a skeleton, a forensic anthropologist can potentially determine a victim's age, sex , stature , and ancestry . In addition to identifying physical characteristics of the individual, forensic anthropologists can use skeletal abnormalities to potentially determine cause of death , past trauma such as broken bones or medical procedures, a ...more...

Digital forensics


Digital forensics (sometimes known as digital forensic science ) is a branch of forensic science encompassing the recovery and investigation of material found in digital devices, often in relation to computer crime . The term digital forensics was originally used as a synonym for computer forensics but has expanded to cover investigation of all devices capable of storing digital data . With roots in the personal computing revolution of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the discipline evolved in a haphazard manner during the 1990s, and it was not until the early 21st century that national policies emerged. Digital forensics investigations have a variety of applications. The most common is to support or refute a hypothesis before criminal or civil (as part of the electronic discovery process) courts. Forensics may also feature in the private sector; such as during internal corporate investigations or intrusion investigation (a specialist probe into the nature and extent of an unauthorized network intrusion ). ...more...

Computer forensics


Computer forensics (also known as computer forensic science ) is a branch of digital forensic science pertaining to evidence found in computers and digital storage media . The goal of computer forensics is to examine digital media in a forensically sound manner with the aim of identifying, preserving, recovering, analyzing and presenting facts and opinions about the digital information. Although it is most often associated with the investigation of a wide variety of computer crime , computer forensics may also be used in civil proceedings. The discipline involves similar techniques and principles to data recovery , but with additional guidelines and practices designed to create a legal audit trail . Evidence from computer forensics investigations is usually subjected to the same guidelines and practices of other digital evidence. It has been used in a number of high-profile cases and is becoming widely accepted as reliable within U.S. and European court systems . Overview In the early 1980s personal computers ...more...

Forensic video analysis


Forensic video analysis is the scientific examination, comparison and/or evaluation of video in legal matters. See also Forensic audio Scientific Working Group on Imaging Technologies (SWIGIT) References "Forensic Imaging And Multi-media Glossary Covering Computer Evidence Recovery (CER), Forensic Audio (FA), Forensic Photography (FP), And Forensic Video (FV)" (PDF) . International Association for Identification. External links American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS) International Association for Identification (IAI) International Association for Pattern Recognition, Technical Committee on Computational Forensics (IAPR-TC6) Law Enforcement and Emergency Video Services Association (LEVA) National Technical Investigators’ Association (NATIA) Video analytics for forensic evidence collection - overview of latest trends The Evolution of Video Forensics: Finding People in Real Time Forensic video analysis is the scientific examination, comparison and/or evaluation of video in legal matters. See also Forensic au ...more...

Forensic accounting


Forensic accounting , forensic accountancy or financial forensics is the specialty practice area of accounting that describes engagements that result from actual or anticipated disputes or litigation . " Forensic " means "suitable for use in a court of law", and it is to that standard and potential outcome that forensic accountants generally have to work. Forensic accountants, also referred to as forensic auditors or investigative auditors, often have to give expert evidence at the eventual trial. All of the larger accounting firms, as well as many medium-sized and boutique firms and various police and government agencies have specialist forensic accounting departments. Within these groups, there may be further sub-specializations: some forensic accountants may, for example, just specialize in insurance claims , personal injury claims, fraud , anti-money-laundering , construction , or royalty audits . Financial forensic engagements may fall into several categories. For example: Economic damages calculations ...more...

Forensic psychology


Forensic psychology is the intersection between psychology and the justice system . It involves understanding fundamental legal principles, particularly with regard to expert witness testimony and the specific content area of concern (e.g., competence to stand trial , child custody and visitation, or workplace discrimination), as well as relevant jurisdictional considerations (e.g., in the United States, the definition of insanity in criminal trials differs from state to state) in order to be able to interact appropriately with judges , attorneys , and other legal professionals . An important aspect of forensic psychology is the ability to testify in court as an expert witness, reformulating psychological findings into the legal language of the courtroom, providing information to legal personnel in a way that can be understood. Further, in order to be a credible witness , the forensic psychologist must understand the philosophy, rules, and standards of the judicial system. Primarily, they must understand the ...more...

Forensic toxicology


Forensic toxicology is the use of toxicology and other disciplines such as analytical chemistry , pharmacology and clinical chemistry to aid medical or legal investigation of death, poisoning, and drug use. The primary concern for forensic toxicology is not the legal outcome of the toxicological investigation or the technology utilized, but rather the obtainment and interpretation of results. A toxicological analysis can be done to various kinds of samples. A forensic toxicologist must consider the context of an investigation, in particular any physical symptoms recorded, and any evidence collected at a crime scene that may narrow the search, such as pill bottles, powders, trace residue, and any available chemicals. Provided with this information and samples with which to work, the forensic toxicologist must determine which toxic substances are present, in what concentrations, and the probable effect of those chemicals on the person. Determining the substance ingested is often complicated by the body's natura ...more...

Gunshot residue


Gunshot residue from a pistol shot Gunshot residue (GSR) , also known as cartridge discharge residue (CDR), "gunfire residue" (GFR), or firearm discharge residue (FDR), is residue deposited on the hands and clothes of someone who discharges a firearm . It is principally composed of burnt and unburnt particles from the explosive primer , the propellant —and possibly fragments of the bullet , cartridge case, and the firearm. Law enforcement investigators test the clothing and skin of people for GSR to determine if they were near a gun when it discharged. Gunshot residue can travel over 3–5 feet (0.9–1.5 meters) from the gun. At the farthest distance, only a few trace particles may be present. History In 1971 John Boehm presented some micrographs of GSR particles found during the examination of bullet entrance holes using a scanning electron microscope . If the scanning electron microscope is equipped with an energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy detector, the chemical elements present in such particles, mainly l ...more...

Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners


The Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners (AFTE) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of firearm and tool mark identification, which is one of the forensic sciences . Organizational history[1] Prior to 1969, police and civilian firearm and tool mark examiners regularly met during annual meetings of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) to discuss concerns specific to their field. In 1969, 35 examiners from the United States and Canada met at the Chicago Police Department Crime Laboratory and formed the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners. The first official Association publication was AFTE Newsletter Number 1, published on May 15, 1969. In 1972, the title of the publication was changed to AFTE Journal. Each year since 1969, an Annual AFTE training seminar has been held at locations throughout the United States and Canada. The primary purpose of the annual seminars is to provide for the interchange of information as it relates to all aspects of ...more...

Mobile device forensics


Mobile device forensics is a branch of digital forensics relating to recovery of digital evidence or data from a mobile device under forensically sound conditions. The phrase mobile device usually refers to mobile phones ; however, it can also relate to any digital device that has both internal memory and communication ability, including PDA devices, GPS devices and tablet computers . The use of mobile phones/devices in crime was widely recognised for some years, but the forensic study of mobile devices is a relatively new field, dating from the early 2000s and late 1990s. A proliferation of phones (particularly smartphones ) and other digital devices on the consumer market caused a demand for forensic examination of the devices, which could not be met by existing computer forensics techniques. Mobile devices can be used to save several types of personal information such as contacts, photos, calendars and notes, SMS and MMS messages. Smartphones may additionally contain video, email, web browsing information, ...more...

Forensic linguistics


Forensic linguistics , legal linguistics , or language and the law , is the application of linguistic knowledge, methods and insights to the forensic context of law, language, crime investigation, trial, and judicial procedure. It is a branch of applied linguistics . There are principally three areas of application for linguists working in forensic contexts: understanding language of the written law, understanding language use in forensic and judicial processes, and the provision of linguistic evidence. The discipline of forensic linguistics is not homogenous; it involves a range of experts and researchers in different areas of the field. History The phrase forensic linguistics first appeared in 1968 when Jan Svartvik, a professor of linguistics, used it in an analysis of statements by Timothy John Evans . During the early days of forensic linguistics in the United Kingdom, the legal defense for many criminal cases questioned the authenticity of police statements. At the time, customary police procedure for t ...more...

Audio forensics


Audio forensics is the field of forensic science relating to the acquisition, analysis, and evaluation of sound recordings that may ultimately be presented as admissible evidence in a court of law or some other official venue. Audio forensic evidence may come from a criminal investigation by law enforcement or as part of an official inquiry into an accident, fraud, accusation of slander, or some other civil incident. The primary aspects of audio forensics are establishing the authenticity of audio evidence, performing enhancement of audio recordings to improve speech intelligibility and the audibility of low-level sounds, and interpreting and documenting sonic evidence, such as identifying talkers, transcribing dialog, and reconstructing crime or accident scenes and timelines. Modern audio forensics makes extensive use of digital signal processing , with the former use of analog filters now being obsolete. Techniques such as adaptive filtering and discrete Fourier transforms are used extensively. Recent advan ...more...

Database forensics


Database forensics is a branch of digital forensic science relating to the forensic study of databases and their related metadata. The discipline is similar to computer forensics , following the normal forensic process and applying investigative techniques to database contents and metadata. Cached information may also exist in a servers RAM requiring live analysis techniques. A forensic examination of a database may relate to the timestamps that apply to the update time of a row in a relational table being inspected and tested for validity in order to verify the actions of a database user. Alternatively, a forensic examination may focus on identifying transactions within a database system or application that indicate evidence of wrongdoing, such as fraud. Software tools can be used to manipulate and analyse data. These tools also provide audit logging capabilities which provide documented proof of what tasks or analysis a forensic examiner performed on the database. Currently many database software tools are ...more...

Forensic metrology


Forensic metrology is metrology , the science of measurement, as it applies to forensic sciences . Forensic laboratories and criminalistic laboratories perform numerous measurements and tests to support both criminal and civil legal actions . Examples of forensic metrology include the measurement of blood or breath alcohol content , the quantification of controlled substances (both net weights and purity), and length measurements of firearm barrels . The results of forensic measurements are used to determine if a person is charged with a crime or may be used to determine a statutory sentencing enhancement. Other examples of forensic metrology includes tests that measure if there is a presence of a substance (e.g., cocaine), latent print examination, questioned documents examination , and DNA analysis . Forensic measurements are all supported by reference standards which are traceable to the International System of Units (SI) maintained by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures , to natural constants ...more...

Forensic dentistry


Forensic dentistry or forensic odontology is the application of dental knowledge to those criminal and civil laws that are enforced by police agencies in a criminal justice system . Forensic dentists are involved in assisting investigative agencies to identify recovered human remains in addition to the identification of whole or fragmented bodies; forensic dentists may also be asked to assist in determining age, race , occupation , previous dental history and socioeconomic status of unidentified human beings. Forensic dentistry is the proper handling, examination and evaluation of dental evidence , which will be then presented in the interest of justice . The evidence that may be derived from teeth is the age (in children) and identification of the person to whom the teeth belong. This is done using dental records including radiographs , ante-mortem (prior to death) and post-mortem (after death) photographs and DNA . Forensic odontology is derived from Latin , meaning a forum or where legal matters are discus ...more...

Forensic chemistry


Forensic chemistry is the application of chemistry and its subfield, forensic toxicology , in a legal setting. A forensic chemist can assist in the identification of unknown materials found at a crime scene . Specialists in this field have a wide array of methods and instruments to help identify unknown substances. These include high-performance liquid chromatography , gas chromatography-mass spectrometry , atomic absorption spectroscopy , Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy , and thin layer chromatography . The range of different methods is important due to the destructive nature of some instruments and the number of possible unknown substances that can be found at a scene. Forensic chemists prefer using nondestructive methods first, to preserve evidence and to determine which destructive methods will produce the best results. Along with other forensic specialists, forensic chemists commonly testify in court as expert witnesses regarding their findings. Forensic chemists follow a set of standards that h ...more...

Forensic podiatry


Forensic Podiatry  is a subdiscipline of  forensic science  in which specialized podiatric knowledge including foot and lower limb anatomy, musculoskeletal function, deformities and  diseases of the foot ,  ankle , lower extremities, and at times, the entire human body is used in the examination of foot-related evidence in the context of a criminal investigation. Forensic Podiatry has been defined as:  "The application of sound and researched podiatry knowledge and experience in forensic investigations, to show the association of an individual with a scene of crime, or to answer any other legal question concerned with the foot or footwear that requires knowledge of the functioning foot" (Vernon & McCourt, 1999) Those who specialize in this field need to have gained knowledge and experience in podiatry and also in forensic science and practice (Vernon et al., 2009). Forensic Podiatry is usually used to assist in the process of human identification, but can also be employed to help address issues relating ...more...

Comparison microscope


A comparison microscope is a device used to analyze side-by-side specimens. It consists of two microscopes connected by an optical bridge, which results in a split view window enabling two separate objects to be viewed simultaneously. This avoids the observer having to rely on memory when comparing two objects under a conventional microscope. History In the 1920s forensic ballistics was waiting at its inception. In 1929, using a comparison microscope adapted for the purpose by Calvin Goddard and his partner Phillip Gravelle used similar techniques to absolve the Chicago Police Department of participation in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Col. Calvin H. Goddard Goddard with Comparison Microscope Philip O. Gravelle, a chemist , developed a comparison microscope for use in the identification of fired bullets and cartridge cases with the support and guidance of forensic ballistics pioneer Calvin Goddard. It was a significant advance in the science of firearms identification in forensic science . The firearm fr ...more...

CSI effect


The CSI effect , also known as the CSI syndrome and the CSI infection , is any of several ways in which the exaggerated portrayal of forensic science on crime television shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation influences public perception. The term was first reported in a 2004 USA Today article describing the effect being made on trial jurors by television programs featuring forensic science. It most often refers to the belief that jurors have come to demand more forensic evidence in criminal trials , thereby raising the effective standard of proof for prosecutors . While this belief is widely held among American legal professionals, some studies have suggested that crime shows are unlikely to cause such an effect, although frequent CSI viewers may place a lower value on circumstantial evidence . As technology improves and becomes more prevalent throughout society, people may also develop higher expectations for the capabilities of forensic technology. Background The CSI effect is named for CSI: Crime ...more...

Forensic radiology


Forensic radiology is the discipline which comprises the performance, interpretation and reportage of the radiological examinations and procedures which are needed in court procedures or law enforcement . Radiological methods are widely used in identification , age estimation and establishing cause of death . Comparison of ante mortem and post mortem radiographs is one of the means of identification. The scanning of baggage, vehicles and individuals have many applications. Tools like multislice helical computed tomography can be used for detailed documentation of injuries, tissue damage and complications like air embolism and pulmonary aspiration of blood. This type of digital autopsies offer certain advantages when compared to traditional autopsies . References Thali Michael J.; B. G. Brogdon; Mark D. Viner (1998). Forensic Radiology . CRC Press LLC. p. 4. ISBN   0849381053 . Retrieved 10 July 2014 . B, Ajay (March 1, 2014). "CHEST X-RAY COMPARISON FOR IDENTIFICATION– A CASE REPORT" . Journal of South Indi ...more...

Forensic biology


Forensic biology is the application of biology to law enforcement. It includes the subdisciplines of forensic anthropology , forensic botany , forensic entomology , forensic odontology , forensic toxicology and various DNA or protein based techniques. Applications Forensic biology has been used to prove a suspect was at a crime scene, identify illegal products from endangered species, solve crimes by matching crime scene evidence to suspects, investigate airplane bird strikes , and investigate bird collisions with wind turbines . Disciplines Forensic anthropology Forensic anthropology is for identification and recovery of remains. In extreme cases where conventional techniques are unable to determine the identity of the remains, anthropologists are sometimes able to deduce certain characteristics based on the skeletal remains. Race, sex, age and stature can often be determined by both measuring the remains and looking for structural clues in the bones. Forensic botany A Forensic botanist looks to plant li ...more...

Crime scene


A crime scene A crime scene is any location that may be associated with a committed crime. Crime scenes contain physical evidence that is pertinent to a criminal investigation.This evidence is collected by crime scene investigators (CSIs) and Law enforcement .The location of a crime scene can be the place where the crime took place, or can be any area that contains evidence from the crime itself. Scenes are not only limited to a location, but can be any person, place, or object associated with the criminal behaviors that occurred. After a crime scene has been discovered, it is important that measures are taken to secure and protect the scene from contamination. In order to maintain the integrity of the scene, law enforcement must take action to block off the surrounding area as well as keep track of who comes in and goes out. By taking these precautions, officers can ensure that evidence that is collected can be used in court. Evidence that has become contaminated, tampered with, or mistreated can pollute th ...more...

Forensic palynology


Forensic palynology is the study of pollen , spores and other acid-resistant microscopic plant bodies, including dinoflagellates, to prove or disprove a relationship between objects, people and places that pertain to both criminal and civil cases. Pollen can tell a lot about where a person or object has been, because regions of the world, countries, and even different parts of a garden will have a distinctive pollen assemblage. Pollen evidence can also reveal the season in which a particular object picked up the pollen. Pollen has been used to trace activity at mass graves in Bosnia , catch a burglar who brushed against a Hypericum bush during a crime, and has even been proposed as an additive for bullets to enable tracking them. For instance, a dead body may be found in a wood, and the clothes may contain pollen that was released after death (the time of death can be determined by forensic entomology ), but in a place other than where it was found. That indicates that the body was moved. Palynology Palyn ...more...

Forensic facial reconstruction


Forensic facial reconstruction (or forensic facial approximation ) is the process of recreating the face of an individual (whose identity is often not known) from their skeletal remains through an amalgamation of artistry, forensic science, anthropology , osteology , and anatomy . It is easily the most subjective—as well as one of the most controversial—techniques in the field of forensic anthropology . Despite this controversy, facial reconstruction has proved successful frequently enough that research and methodological developments continue to be advanced. In addition to remains involved in criminal investigations, facial reconstructions are created for remains believed to be of historical value and for remains of prehistoric hominids and humans . Legal admissibility In the U.S., the Daubert Standard is a legal precedent set in 1993 by the Supreme Court regarding the admissibility of expert witness testimony during legal proceedings, set in place to ensure that expert testimony is based on sufficient facts ...more...

Trace evidence


Trace evidence is created when objects contact. Material is often transferred by heat or induced by contact friction. The importance of trace evidence in criminal investigations was shown by Dr. Edmond Locard in the early 20th Century. Since then, forensic scientists use trace evidence to reconstruct crimes, and to describe the people, places and things involved in them. Studies of homicides published in the forensic science literature show how trace evidence is used to solve crimes. Trace evidence is important in accident investigation, where movement of one part against another will often leave a tell-tale mark. Such analysis is of great use in forensic engineering . Examples Vehicular accident reconstruction relies on such marks to estimate vehicle speed before and during an accident, as well as braking and impact forces. Fabric prints of clothing worn by pedestrians in the paint and/or road grime of the striking vehicle can match a specific vehicle involved in a hit-and-run collision. Such traces are also ...more...

Forensic Services


Forensic Services (SCD 4) is a unit of the Metropolitan Police of London , England . Part of the Specialist Crime Directorate , their duties range from evidence recovery following burglaries to anti-terrorism work. It is divided into six units: Forensic Services Command Unit for Territorial Policing is responsible for the examination of all crime scenes . The 32 London Boroughs are divided into four "Links", with each Link covering eight boroughs. A "Borough Forensic Manager" has a team of "Assistant Forensic Practitioners" (AFPs) who examine crime scenes and support "Crime Scene Managers" at more serious crime scenes, such as murder . A Forensic Intelligence Unit links evidence recovered from different crime scenes. Forensic Investigation - Specialist Crime conducts forensic investigations of homicide , armed robbery and any other crime that falls within the remit of SCD. Specialist Evidence Recovery Imaging Services provides photographic services to the Met Police. It responds to major crime scenes, terrori ...more...



Fractography is the study of the fracture surfaces of materials. Fractographic methods are routinely used to determine the cause of failure in engineering structures, especially in product failure and the practice of forensic engineering or failure analysis . In material science research, fractography is used to develop and evaluate theoretical models of crack growth behavior. One of the aims of fractographic examination is to determine the cause of failure by studying the characteristics of a fractured surface. Different types of crack growth (e.g. fatigue , stress corrosion cracking , hydrogen embrittlement ) produce characteristic features on the surface, which can be used to help identify the failure mode. The overall pattern of cracking can be more important than a single crack, however, especially in the case of brittle materials like ceramics and glasses . Methods Crankshaft fatigue fracture An important aim of fractography is to establish and examine the origin of cracking, as examination at the origi ...more...

Fire investigation


London Fire Investigation Unit Fire investigation , sometimes referred to as origin and cause investigation , is the analysis of fire-related incidents. After firefighters extinguish a fire , an investigation is launched to determine the origin and cause of the fire or explosion . Investigations of such incidents require a systematic approach and knowledge of basic fire science . Investigating fires In common with many forensic disciplines, one of the early tasks of fire investigation is often to determine whether or not a crime has been committed. The difficulty of determining whether arson has occurred arises because fire often destroys the key evidence of its origin. Many fires are caused by defective equipment, such as shorting of faulty electrical circuits . Car fires can be caused by faulty fuel lines , and spontaneous combustion is possible where organic wastes are stored. A fire investigator looks at the fire remains, and obtains information to reconstruct the sequence of events leading up to the fire ...more...

Medical jurisprudence


Autopsy room of the Charité Berlin Refrigerator in the Forensic Medicine at the Charité Berlin Medical jurisprudence or legal medicine is the branch of science and medicine involving the study and application of scientific and medical knowledge to legal problems, such as inquests , and in the field of law . As modern medicine is a legal creation, regulated by the state, and medicolegal cases involving death , rape , paternity , etc. require a medical practitioner to produce evidence and appear as an expert witness , these two fields have traditionally been interdependent. Forensic medicine, which includes forensic pathology , is a narrower field that involves collection and analysis of medical evidence (samples) to produce objective information for use in the legal system. History Paul Zacchias is one of the earliest figures of medical jurisprudence, with association with the Papal States and Catholic church . Zacchias was the personal physician to Pope Innocentius X and Pope Alexander VII , as well as lega ...more...

Forensic psychiatry


Forensic psychiatry is a sub-speciality of psychiatry and is related to criminology . It encompasses the interface between law and psychiatry. A forensic psychiatrist provides services – such as determination of competency to stand trial – to a court of law to facilitate the adjudicative process and provide treatment like medications and psychotherapy to criminals. Court work Forensic psychiatrists work with courts in evaluating an individual's competency to stand trial , defenses based on mental disorders (e.g., the insanity defense), and sentencing recommendations. There are two major areas of criminal evaluations in forensic psychiatry. These are Competency to Stand trial (CST) and Mental State at the Time of the Offense (MSO). Competency to stand trial (CST) This is the competency evaluation to determine that a defendant has the mental capacity to understand the charges and assist their attorney. In the United States, this is seated in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution , which ensures ...more...

Forensic engineering


Forensic engineering is the investigation of materials , products , structures or components that fail or do not operate or function as intended, causing personal injury or damage to property. The consequences of failure are dealt with by the law of product liability . The field also deals with retracing processes and procedures leading to accidents in operation of vehicles or machinery. The subject is applied most commonly in civil law cases, although it may be of use in criminal law cases. Generally, the purpose of a forensic engineering investigation is to locate cause or causes of failure with a view to improve performance or life of a component, or to assist a court in determining the facts of an accident . It can also involve investigation of intellectual property claims, especially patents . History As the field of engineering has evolved over time, so has the field of forensic engineering. Early examples include investigation of bridge failures such as the Tay rail bridge disaster of 1879 and the Dee ...more...

Forensic psychotherapy


Forensic psychotherapy is the application of psychological knowledge to the treatment of patients who have mental illnesses who commit violent acts against others or themselves involving both the conscious and unconscious motivations. Commonly applied diagnoses would include personality disorder and psychosis . The link between personality disorder and offending is not firmly established although many of those who commit offences have one or more personality disorders. The term forensic psychotherapy is usually associated with Psychodynamic psychotherapy , including group psychotherapy and the therapeutic community approach. Cognitive behavioral therapy is more commonly associated with the field of psychology, particularly Forensic Psychology . Forensic psychotherapists may collaborate with other professionals, such as physicians, social workers, and other psychologists to best serve the client's needs and may work in various settings including prisons, inpatient settings, and outpatient settings. Forensic ps ...more...

Calvin Hooker Goddard


Calvin Hooker Goddard (30 October 1891 – 22 February 1955) was a forensic scientist , army officer, academic , researcher and a pioneer in forensic ballistics . He examined the bullet casings in the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre and showed that the guns used were not police issued weapons, leading the investigators to conclude it was a mob hit. Biography He was born in Baltimore, Maryland . After graduating from the Boys' Latin School of Maryland in 1907, Goddard graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1911 from the Johns Hopkins University and then earned a medical degree and graduated in 1915. He joined the United States Army and became a Colonel. He was also a professor of police science at Northwestern University and the Military Editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica . He was also the editor of the American Journal of Police Science, America’s first scientific police journal. Colonel Goddard commanded the US Army Crime Laboratory in Japan for a number of years after World War II . Calvin Goddard ...more...

Forensic identification


Forensic identification is the application of forensic science , or "forensics", and technology to identify specific objects from the trace evidence they leave, often at a crime scene or the scene of an accident. Forensic means "for the courts". Human identification Droplets of human blood . In addition to analyzing for DNA , the droplets are round and show no spattering, indicating they impacted at a relatively slow velocity, in this case from a height of two feet. People can be identified by their fingerprints . This assertion is supported by the philosophy of friction ridge identification, which states that friction ridge identification is established through the agreement of friction ridge formations, in sequence, having sufficient uniqueness to individualize. Friction ridge identification is also governed by four premises or statements of facts: Friction ridges develop on the fetus in their definitive form prior to birth. Friction ridges are persistent throughout life except for permanent scarring, disea ...more...

Forensic Heroes III


Forensic Heroes III (also known as FH3 ) is a 2011 Hong Kong police procedural television drama produced by Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB). The drama is one of three grand TVB productions used to celebrate the channel's 44th anniversary, the other two being Super Snoops and Curse of the Royal Harem . It is also the third installment and reboot of the Forensic Heroes series, featuring new stories and characters. Mui Siu-ching , who also produced the original series, serves as the executive producer. The drama was a ratings success, and is Hong Kong's highest-rating serial drama of 2011 . Synopsis Senior Forensic Chemist Jack "Pro Sir" Po ( Wayne Lai ) is the head of the Forensic Department and is skilled at analysing criminal psychology. He has a unique view on human nature and is familiar with the structure of various firearms. Pro Sir works closely with Senior Pathologist Mandy Chung ( Maggie Cheung Ho-yee ) in a wide range of fields including psychology, anthropology, criminology and forensic science. ...more...

Ontario Centre of Forensic Sciences


The Centre of Forensic Sciences ( CFS ) is a laboratory providing forensic science services to law enforcement agencies in Ontario , Canada . It is part of the government of Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services public safety division. Work The majority of CFS cases deal with Criminal Code offences but other enforcement areas related to environment, conservation, hazardous materials, and public transit have also submitted samples. The CFS may also provide specialized forensic services on a fee basis to other non-law enforcement parties, such as a non-criminal case lawyer or medical doctor. This decision rests with the director of the CFS. Scientists and technologists from the CFS also provide expert testimony in courts of law and tribunals, research and development, and client education and training. The Centre of Forensic Sciences is one of the most extensive forensic science facilities in North America. The central laboratory is located in Toronto , in the Forensic Services and Coro ...more...

Forensic profiling


Forensic profiling is the study of trace evidence in order to develop information which can be used by police authorities . This information can be used to identify suspects and convict them in a court of law. The term " forensic " in this context refers to "information that is used in court as evidence" ( Geradts & Sommer 2006 , p. 10). The traces originate from criminal or litigious activities themselves. However traces are information that is not strictly dedicated to the court. They may increase knowledge in broader domains linked to security that deal with investigation, intelligence, surveillance, or risk analysis ( Geradts & Sommer 2008 , p. 26). Forensic profiling is different than offender profiling , which only refers to the identification of an offender to the psychological profile of a criminal. In particular, forensic profiling should refer to profiling in the information sciences sense, i.e., to "The process of 'discovering' correlations between data in data bases that can be used to i ...more...

Kaz II


The Kaz II , dubbed "the ghost yacht", is a 9.8-metre catamaran which was found drifting 88 nautical miles (163 kilometres) off the north-eastern coast of Australia on 20 April 2007. The fate of her three-man crew remains unknown, and the mysterious circumstances in which they disappeared have been compared to that of the Mary Celeste . Disappearance of crew Kaz II undergoing forensic examination in Townsville According to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority , the Kaz II departed from Airlie Beach on 15 April 2007, and was heading for Townsville on the first leg of a journey that was to take it around Northern Australia to Western Australia . On board were owner Derek Batten and his neighbours, brothers Peter and James Tunstead. The first indication that there was a problem came on 18 April, when it was spotted by a helicopter, which reported that the boat was drifting in the vicinity of the Great Barrier Reef , and that its crew were potentially in distress. On 20 April, maritime authorities caught up ...more...

Forensic entomology


Forensic entomology is the scientific study of the invasion of the succession pattern of arthropods with their developmental stages of different species found on the decomposed cadavers during legal investigations. It is the application and study of insect and other arthropod biology to criminal matters. It also involves the application of the study of arthropods, including insects, arachnids, centipedes, millipedes, and crustaceans to criminal or legal cases. It is primarily associated with death investigations; however, it may also be used to detect drugs and poisons, determine the location of an incident, and find the presence and time of the infliction of wounds. Forensic entomology can be divided into three subfields: urban , stored-product and medico-legal/medico-criminal entomology. History Historically, there have been several accounts of applications for, and experimentation with, forensic entomology. The concept of forensic entomology dates back to at least the 13th century. However, only in the la ...more...

Network forensics


Network forensics is a sub-branch of digital forensics relating to the monitoring and analysis of computer network traffic for the purposes of information gathering, legal evidence, or intrusion detection . Unlike other areas of digital forensics, network investigations deal with volatile and dynamic information. Network traffic is transmitted and then lost, so network forensics is often a pro-active investigation. Network forensics generally has two uses. The first, relating to security, involves monitoring a network for anomalous traffic and identifying intrusions. An attacker might be able to erase all log files on a compromised host; network-based evidence might therefore be the only evidence available for forensic analysis. The second form relates to law enforcement. In this case analysis of captured network traffic can include tasks such as reassembling transferred files, searching for keywords and parsing human communication such as emails or chat sessions. Two systems are commonly used to collect ne ...more...



A fingerprint in its narrow sense is an impression left by the friction ridges of a human finger . The recovery of fingerprints from a crime scene is an important method of forensic science . Fingerprints are easily deposited on suitable surfaces (such as glass or metal or polished stone) by the natural secretions of sweat from the eccrine glands that are present in epidermal ridges. These are sometimes referred to as "Chanced Impressions". In a wider use of the term, fingerprints are the traces of an impression from the friction ridges of any part of a human or other primate hand . A print from the sole of the foot can also leave an impression of friction ridges. Deliberate impressions of fingerprints may be formed by ink or other substances transferred from the peaks of friction ridges on the skin to a relatively smooth surface such as a fingerprint card. Fingerprint records normally contain impressions from the pad on the last joint of fingers and thumbs, although fingerprint cards also typically record ...more...

Forensic data analysis


Forensic Data Analysis (FDA) is a branch of Digital forensics . It examines structured data with regard to incidents of financial crime . The aim is to discover and analyse patterns of fraudulent activities. Data from application systems or from their underlying databases is referred to as structured data. Unstructured data in contrast is taken from communication and office applications or from mobile devices. This data has no overarching structure and analysis thereof means applying keywords or mapping communication patterns. Analysis of unstructured data is usually referred to as Computer forensics . Methodology The analysis of large volumes of data is typically performed in a separate database system run by the analysis team. Live systems are usually not dimensioned to run extensive individual analysis without affecting the regular users. On the other hand, it is methodically preferable to analyze data copies on separate systems and protect the analysis teams against the accusation of altering original dat ...more...

Forensic footwear evidence


Forensic footwear evidence can be used in legal proceedings to help prove that a shoe was at a crime scene . Footwear evidence is often the most abundant form of evidence at a crime scene and in some cases can prove to be as specific as a fingerprint . Initially investigators will look to identify the make and model of the shoe or trainer which made an impression. This can be done visually or by comparison with evidence in a database ; both methods focus heavily on pattern recognition and brand or logo marks. Information about the footwear can be gained from the analysis of wear patterns which are dependent on angle of footfall and weight distribution . Detailed examination of footwear impressions can help to link a specific piece of footwear to a footwear imprint as each shoe will have unique characteristics. Types of footwear evidence Footwear evidence can come in at least three forms, footwear outsole impressions, footwear insole impressions and footwear trace evidence. Footwear outsole impressions Footwea ...more...

Polygonal rifling


Polygonal rifling ( pə- LIG -ə-nəl ) is a type of gun barrel rifling where the traditional lands and grooves are replaced by "hills and valleys" in a rounded polygonal pattern, usually taking the form of a hexagon or octagon. Polygons with a larger number of edges provide a better gas seal in relatively large diameter polygonally rifled bores. In the pre-Gen 5 Glock pistol , for instance, octagonal rifling is used in the large diameter .45 ACP bore, which has an 11.23 mm (0.442 in) diameter, since it resembles a circle more closely than the hexagonal rifling used in smaller diameter bores. History Left image : Rifled mountain cannon of the French La Hitte system , "Canon de montagne de 4 modèle 1859 Le Pétulant". Caliber: 86 mm. Length: 0.82 m. Weight: 101 kg (208 kg with carriage). Ammunition: 4 kg shell. Right image : Hexagonal rifling of Le Pétulant (detail). While polygonal rifling has been around since the earliest days of rifled barrels, it had faded out of use by the time of the early cordite cartridge ...more...

Bloodstain pattern analysis


Bloodstain pattern analysis ( BPA ), one of several specialties in the field of forensic science , involves the study and analysis of bloodstains at a known or suspected violent crime scene with the goal of helping investigators draw conclusions about the nature, timing and other details of the crime. The use of bloodstains as evidence is not new; however, the application of modern science has brought it to a higher level since the 1970s and '80s. New technologies, especially advances in DNA analysis , are available for detectives and criminologists to use in solving crimes and apprehending offenders. The science of bloodstain pattern analysis applies scientific knowledge from other fields to solve practical problems. Bloodstain pattern analysis draws on the scientific disciplines of biology , chemistry , mathematics and physics . If an analyst follows a scientific process, this applied science can produce strong, solid evidence, making it an effective tool for investigators, although care does need to be tak ...more...

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