Dr. Wahied Khawar Balwan
Forensic science is a multidisciplinary science used for the purpose of the law where scientific procedures are applied to solve legal problems of theft, assault, rape, accident, poisoning, medical/surgical negligence, suicide attempt, suicide or murder, animal abuse, and cruelty, etc. Many potential applications of forensic science exist. The key principle is to identify traces of substances transferred through every contact. It provides impartial scientific evidence that establishes links between crime scenes and suspects. As technology infiltrates every aspect of our lives, solving crimes has become almost futuristic in its advances. From retinal scanning to trace evidence chemistry, actual forensic technologies are very advanced at helping to solve crimes. It is also used for humanitarian purposes to clarify the fate of missing persons. Although forensic science has greatly enhanced the investigator’s ability to solve crimes, it has limitations and must be scrutinized in and out of the courtroom to avoid the occurrence of wrongful convictions. Lawyers, judges, officials and the public need to know what forensic science can/ cannot do. The net of law, however, is spread so wide that no sinner from its sweep may hide.
The word forensic means a form of legal evidence ‘of or before the forum’ and it is a synonym for legal/ related to courts. The ancient world lacked standardized forensic practices, which aided criminals in escaping punishment. The use of torture to force confession had to be curtailed with a simultaneous increase in the use of logic and procedures in criminal investigations. Forensic science developed for the purpose of the law where scientific procedures are applied to solve legal problems. It is a multidisciplinary subject, involving chemistry, biology, physics, geology, psychology, social science, and virtually all fields of science and technology. It involves the collection of information about the physical characteristics, chemical composition, and occurrence of materials of forensic interest. It looks at the scientific association between such samples, based on their origins, manufacture, packaging, and distribution characteristics. It provides impartial scientific evidence for use in the courts of law, e.g., in a criminal investigation and trial. Proof of criminal charges initially depended mainly on eyewitnesses and other subjective means. With scientific advances, objective evidence has taken on a greater role in criminal trials. Governments rely increasingly on science to help enforce a growing number of regulations to resolve disputes, assess blame and establish responsibility, and enhance public safety. Lawyers, judges, officials, and the public need to know what forensic science can/ cannot do.
One of the key principles of forensic science is to identify traces of substances transferred through every contact. In a typical criminal investigation, the crime scene investigators will gather material evidence from the crime scene, victim, and/ or suspect. Forensic scientists will examine these materials to provide scientific evidence to assist in the investigation and court proceedings, and thus work closely with the police. Senior forensic scientists, who usually specialize in one or more of the key forensic disciplines, may be required to attend crime scenes or give evidence in court as impartial expert witnesses on many occasions.
- In a case where half of all currency notes were estimated to be contaminated with detectable traces of cocaine, it was established that minutes traces of cocaine were transferred from hand-banknote and from banknote-to-banknote and so on. This principle enables forensic scientists to establish links between crime scenes and suspects.
- Gas Chromatography combined with Mass Spectroscopy (GM-MS) to identify seized drugs (as little as million-millionth of a gram).
- DNA profiling to help identify a murder suspect from a bloodstain found at the crime scene/ useful in resolving paternity and immigration disputes.
- Cells from the saliva extracted from a cigarette butt or a piece of chewing gum left near the crime scene by criminals can provide enough DNA to obtain a DNA profile of the individual, thereby linking them to the crime scene.
- Sticky sweet wrappers left near the crime scene by criminals act as ‘magnets’ to hairs and fibers and sometimes enable forensic scientists to match those found at the crime scene with those found on the suspect’s person or clothing.
- Bullet identification and comparison in killings using ballistics by measuring bullet calibers and matching them with a suspected murder weapon.
- Anthropometry technique as an identification system based on physical measurements assisted with Crime-scene photography.
- Toxicology examination/arsenic detection (as little as one-fiftieth of a milligram) in suspected poisoning cases.
- Laser Raman spectroscopy to identify microscopic paint fragments.
- Bare footprints and palm prints are unique to the individual in just the same way as fingerprints are. Failure to recognize this simple fact cost a young burglar a two-year prison sentence. Before entering the premises he had removed his shoes and socks, placing the socks over his hands so as not to leave any latent fingerprints at the scene. Instead, he left a nice clear set of incriminating latent footprints and he was caught.
- Trace evidence such as shoe and tire impressions and handwriting analysis, known as questioned document examination.
Many potential applications of forensic science exist. Most forensic scientists will examine the evidence objectively and render an opinion based upon the evidence. The expert’s opinion may support the investigator’s case; however, the investigator should also be prepared to hear that the evidence does not support the investigator’s case. In any case, the scientific analysis of physical evidence can be helpful to the investigator. It may provide the objective proof needed to support the case or if it disputes the investigator’s case, it might lead the investigator to an alternate solution to the case.
- Criminalistics is the application of various sciences to answer questions relating to examination and comparison of biological evidence, trace evidence, impression evidence, controlled substances, ballistics, and firearm and tool mark examination, in criminal investigations.
- The forensic intelligence process starts with the collection of data and ends with the integration of results into the analysis of crimes under investigation.
- Dactyloscopy (the study of fingerprints) and Podiatry (the study of feet footprint or footwear).
- Blood Spatter Analysis is the scientific examination of blood spatters patterns found at a crime scene to reconstruct the events of the crime.
- Digital forensics is the application of proven scientific methods and techniques in order to recover data from electronic/ digital media.
- Mobile device forensics is the scientific examination and evaluation of evidence found in mobile phones, e.g. Call History and Deleted SMS, and includes SIM Card Forensics.
- Forensic interviews are conducted using the science of professionally using expertise to conduct a variety of investigative interviews with victims, witnesses, suspects, or other sources to determine the facts regarding suspicions, allegations, or specific incidents in either public or private sector settings.
- Forensic video analysis is the scientific examination, comparison, and evaluation of video in legal matters.
- Animal Crime Scene Analysis with a focus on the recognition, documentation, and prevention of various types of physical evidence involving animal abuse, cruelty, neglect, and death.
- Wildlife Forensic Science applies a range of scientific disciplines to legal cases involving non-human biological evidence, to solve crimes such as poaching, animal abuse, and trade in endangered species.
- Trace evidence analysis is the analysis and comparison of trace evidence including glass, paint, fibers, and hair (e.g., using microspectrophotometry).
- Computational forensics concerns the development of algorithms and software.
- Art forensics authentication methods are used to detect and identify a forgery, faking, and copying of artworks, e.g., paintings.
- Other potential applications of forensic science are document examination, toxicology, psychology, psychiatry, serological investigation, anthropology, archeology, pathology, botany, chemistry, geophysics, entomology, geology, linguistics, engineering, limnology, meteorology, optometry, seismology, accounting, astronomy, aerial photography.
Forensic science applies medical knowledge in judicial proceedings to authenticate or disprove a criminal charge of theft, assault, rape, accident, poisoning, medical/surgical negligence, suicide attempt, suicide or murder brought against an individual and helps to prove the innocence or guilt of an accused. An inquest by a forensic scientist using medical, scientific and legal knowledge into the circumstances and cause of death, in cases of sudden, suspicious or unnatural deaths with/ without injuries in police custody/ police firing/ jail hearsay/ circumstantial evidence helps in crime detection. It relies upon chemical and physical methods of analysis to create “fingerprints” or “signatures” of people. Chemical fingerprinting techniques and sample association methods are generally far more effective in excluding and association than establishing a connection between samples. To confirm an association, all points of comparison must be identical, which usually requires exhaustive analysis and a thorough understanding of the sample. To show that samples are different, it’s enough to establish a single point of dissimilarity.
‘Any error in this manuscript is silent testimony of the fact that it was a human effort’
Dr. Wahied Khawar Balwan
Senior Assistant Professor
Department of Zoology
Govt. PG College Bhaderwah, J & K
Mob. No.: 9419369557
E-mail: [email protected]