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Rapid Increase in Crime Labs

Attributed to an increase in crime rates, primarily drug related crimes.

Drug seizures must be sent to a lab for confirmation by chemical analysis before a judge can rule on a case.

Currently over 300 public crime labs operating under federal, state, county and municipal governments.

4 major FEDERAL crime labs:


FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation

Largest crime lab in the world Capable of investigating a broad range of crimes


DEA - Drug Enforcement Administration

Primary focus: analysis, production, sale, & transportation of illegal drugs

Primary focus: analysis of alcoholic beverages, tax law documents, weapons, explosive devices


ATF - Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives

Gun Control Act of 1968 Organized Crime Control Act of 1970


USPS - U.S. Postal Service


Crime labs vary in the services they provide due to
Differences in local laws The labs capabilities Budget limitations

Many crime labs were simply created for processing drugs. Only a few labs offer a multitude of services.

Full Service Crime Labs

Labs that have the following units.

Physical Science: Drugs, glass, paint, explosives, soil, & trace physical evidence. Biology: DNA, bloodstains, semen, saliva, hair & fiber comparisons, botanical materials (wood/plants). Firearms: Examines of firearms, discharged bullets, cartridge cases, shotgun shells, ammunition of all types, clothing (for gun residue), tool-mark comparisons. Document Examination : examines handwritten & typed/printed documents for authenticity (forgery), ink & paper analysis. Photography: Uses digital imaging, infrared, ultraviolet, & x-ray photography AND courtroom photos.

Other Optional Services

o Toxicology: Body fluids & organs tested for drugs/poisons. oIntoxilyzer an instrument that detects the level of alcohol consumed by someone. o Latent Fingerprint Unit o Polygraph: lie detection o Voiceprint Analysis: telephone threats & recorded messages osound spectrograph an instrument that transforms speech into a visual graphic display called a voiceprint. o Evidence-Collection Unit: they only collect; they do NOT analyze.

Functions of a Forensic Scientist

Functions of a Forensic Scientist


Science to Law Analyzes Physical Evidence Gives Expert Testimony Trains Law Enforcement Available 24-7

Analysis of Evidence
They have to



Analysis of Evidence

is basis of all conclusions ACCURATE DATA is derived from careful collection of evidence POOR EVIDENCE COLLECTION or HANDLING can result in wrong conclusions (i.e. OJ Simpson case) GI-GO: Garbage in garbage out DOCUMENTATION is ESSENTIAL

Analysis of Evidence

of SCIENTIFIC METHODS What is EVIDENCE vs. COINCIDENCE? Give WEIGHT (ranking) to results Attach a DEGREE of CERTAINTY Apply results to theories in order to PROVE or DISPROVE Components must ADD UP to THEORY

Analysis of Evidence

ALL about the EVIDENCE!

The training & competence of forensic scientists & the sophistication of their equipment have little or no value if relevant evidence cannot be recognized, collected, & preserved!

Physical Evidence

Common Examples of Physical Evidence

Blood, Semen, Saliva Hair Samples from body organs Fingerprints Documents Serial numbers Impressions glass Soil & minerals Fibers Petroleum residues Paint, plastic & rubber Powder residue Firearms & explosives Wood & vegetative fragments

The Marsh Test

In 1832 police arrested John Bodle for lacing his grandfather's coffee with poison. Chemist James Marsh tested the drink in his laboratory, & confirmed the presence of arsenic by producing a yellow precipitate of arsenic sulfide. But the precipitate was unstable &, by the time of trial, had deteriorated. Without forensic proof, Bodle was acquitted.

Physical Evidence
Forensic Scientists must be aware of the demands & constraints imposed by the judicial system.

Evidence must satisfy the criteria of admissibility that have been established by the courts. New scientific techniques to analyze evidence are constantly developed & challenged by the courts until proven acceptable by the scientific community.

Physical Evidence
Frye Standard (Frye v. U.S. 1923) - for the results of a scientific technique to be admissible, the technique must be established & acceptance within the scientific community. Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE) - any evidence is admissible so long as it assists the jury & is deemed relevant by the judge. Coppolino Standard (Coppolino v. State 1968) - the court allows new, sometimes controversial scientific tests or techniques as evidence IF an adequate foundation can be laid even if the profession as a whole isn't familiar with it. Daubert Standard (Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals 1993). This requires special pre-trial hearings for scientific evidence. This is very strict & requires knowledge of a tests error rates, as well as validity & reliability data. (no junk science!)



Carmichael v. Kumho Tire Co.

The Carmichaels had a fatal accident when their minivans rear tire blew out. One of the passengers died & others were severely injured. They sued the tire manufacturer, claiming the tire was defective & it caused the accident. Their case relied largely on testimony from a tire expert. The judge referred to the Daubert standard & found the tire expert's methods not to be scientifically valid, and hence excluded his testimony. They lost but appealed & eventually won!

Expert Testimony

Expert Testimony

Forensic Scientists are often called upon to act as Expert Witnesses.

Expert Witness someone that possesses a particular skill or knowledge on a topic that will aid the court in determining the truth.

Expert Testimony

The credentials that makes someone an expert is often ambiguous & highly subjective. Expert witnesses must be:

Advocates of Truth Objective (no personal opinions) Experienced (# of years in their field) Trained (special courses) Educated (degrees in their field)

Expert Testimony

An expert witness is allowed to be challenged by the opposing attorney. They cross-examine the expert to find any weaknesses in background & knowledge. Even if someone is considered an expert, a judge or jury might not consider their testimony that important anyway.

Other Forensic Science Services

Forensic Pathology

Investigation of sudden, unnatural, unexplained or violent deaths Autopsy medical dissection to establish the cause of death (usually performed by ME or coroner) Death can be classified as:

natural, homicide, suicide, accident or undetermined

rigor mortis

Time Since Death (TSD) determined by

Muscles relax then shorten & become stiff 1st 24 36 hours after death

livor mortis
Heart stops pumping & blood settles in areas of the body closest to the ground. Skin appears dark blue or purple Up to 12 hrs after death

algor mortis
Body loses heat until it reaches room temperature Influenced by location, victim size, clothing, & weather General Rule: 1 hr after death, heat is lost at 1-1.5 degrees per hour

Forensic Medicine

Investigation of illnesses that cannot be determined. Takes patients symptoms & uses facts to analyze & interpret. Usually a last result. Doctors cannot find cause of ailment, so this is employed.


Forensic Anthropology

Examine & Identify Skeletal remains Bones can reveal

species, sex, approximate age, race skeletal injury

Facial reconstruction can help identify John or Jane Doe

Forensic Entomology

Study of insects to estimate the time of death Insects lay eggs that hatch into larvae Stages of development tell how long ago the eggs were laid Temperature & other weather conditions affect the development

Forensic Psychiatry

Study of human behavior Determine if persons are competent to stand trial Develop a suspects behavioral profile based on previous patterns of other criminals

Forensic Odontology

Study of teeth characteristics, alignment and the overall structure of the mouth to identify a person
Bite mark analysis compares marks on a victim to the teeth of the suspect

Forensic Engineering

Investigation of

structural failures, accident reconstruction causes of fires

Attempts to determine if human intervention caused the structural failure Utilizes computer models & architectural models to help courts visualize crime scenes