A forensic investigation is the practice of lawfully establishing evidence and facts that are to be presented in a court of law. The term is used for nearly all investigations, ranging from cases of financial fraud to murder. When most people think about forensics, they think about crime scene investigation, in which physical evidence is gathered. There are other forms of forensic investigation, however, such as computer forensics and sub-fields that focus on dentistry or insects and crime scenes.
Crime Scene Forensics
The type of forensic investigation most people know about revolves around violent crimes. Forensics used in these investigations can uncover scientific evidence that may provide enough proof or evidence to convict a violent criminal. These methods can also help disprove outdated evidence that could lead to the release of someone who was wrongly convicted.
One of the main kinds of evidence this form of forensic investigation yields is biological evidence, such as blood spatter and hairs that include Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA). Impression evidence, like fingerprints and tire tracks, help connect people to a crime scene or victim. Weapon identification, the microscopic examination of firearms and tools for the purpose of matching weapons to wounds, helps identify a weapon used in a crime and connect it to a suspect. After the evidence is carefully collected at the crime scene, it is typically sent to a crime lab for processing.
An especially fast-growing division of forensics involves digital or computer investigations. It is a branch of science that involves legal evidence found in digital storage mediums and computers. This field of forensic investigation has several subdivisions including database forensics, firewall investigations, and portable or mobile device forensics.
Digital forensic investigation is useful in a variety of situations, such as the examination of a defendant’s computer system to look for evidence. Investigators use different programs and utilities to recover lost data after a system-wide computer crash or efforts by a suspect to eliminate incriminating computer files. Careful handling and presentation of digital evidence is necessary, however, for it to remain admissible in a courtroom setting.
Other Forensic Fields
There are several other subdivisions of forensic investigation that can be used for the collection of evidence. Investigators specializing in entomology conduct examinations of insects on or near human remains, which can help determine location and time of death. Forensic odontology is the investigation of dentition, or teeth, which is often crucial in identifying the remains of a victim. Other subdivisions include forensic anthropology, geology, and toxicology. Investigators in all of these divisions use exacting techniques to collect data to help prove or disprove accusations of criminal or civil wrongdoing.