A list of forensic techniques includes a wide range of subjects and experts in fields as diverse as biology, anthropology, entomology, geology, pathology, toxicology, and psychology. The word forensics means of or pertaining to law, and forensic techniques are used to solve crimes, find missing persons, and recover lost or stolen data. Forensics is also used to determine the cause of death, including for people long since dead, such as in archaeological sites.
Biological Forensics Techniques
When most people think of forensics, they probably think of the kinds of forensics tests that police and crime-scene investigators perform on a routine basis. These are biological forensics.
Biological forensics techniques apply knowledge about the biological sciences to find clues and make determinations about evidence. The types of biological evidence that may be found at a crime science include blood, semen, saliva, fecal material and urine, hair and bone. Fingerprint analysis is also a biological forensic technique. Fingerprints are left by oils on the skin.
Contained in any of these forms of biological evidence is DNA, which is also a form of biological evidence. DNA does not exist by itself; it must be located within a cell, whether that cell is a blood cell, a skin cell, or a hair cell.
Forensic toxicology uses the sciences of biology, chemistry, and physics to examine the effect of a particular drug or poison on people. Forensic anthropology helps identify skeletal remains, and forensic odontology deals with the study of the teeth to determine the identification of a crime victim. Forensic pathology is concerned with the cause of death of a victim.
Physical forensics deals with non-biological types of evidence. These may take the forms of fibers, paint chips, explosives, or a wide variety of chemicals.
Forensic geology finds evidence in soils and minerals, and may help scientists determine whether a specimen is native to an area or brought in from another location. Forensic meteorology delves into the historical weather patterns in an area in an attempt to determine how the weather has affected a crime scene or helped erode remains. Forensic entomology studies insects that have important roles in the natural decomposition of bodies. By studying the number, type, and ages of insects present, scientists can determine the time of death of a victim to within a few hours.
Psychological forensics applies the knowledge of psychology to criminal law. In particular, forensic psychologists study abnormal behavior and criminal behavior in an attempt to get inside the criminal’s mind. By systematically interviewing possible suspects, forensic psychologists hope to draw out the truth from an interviewee. These professionals are often called upon to give testimony in court.
Forensic ballistics is the study of firearms. By examining the remnants of a bullet or the shape and size of a bullet hole, ballistics experts can determine the type of gun and the caliber of the gun used to fire the bullet. Forensic ballistics is very effective, and even mass-produced guns leave distinctive marks on their bullets, much like a fingerprint.
Digital or computer forensics is the identification and examination of all forms of digital evidence. Types of digital evidence may include word processing files, viruses, and all types of sound and video files. Digital forensics is instrumental in solving white-collar crimes, such as an employee hacking into confidential files, or child pornography.