Branches of Forensics

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Offline Md. Anikuzzaman

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Branches of Forensics
« on: April 15, 2018, 05:17:39 PM »
There are several kinds of branches of Forensics. Let's discuss about all of them.

Forensic Chemistry
•   Trace evidence found at crime scenes.
•   Fingerprints.
•   Urine, blood and other body fluids analysis for poisons and drugs.
•   Calibrating Breathalyzer.
•   Food adulteration.
•   Gas/poison attacks.
•   Radioactivity.
•   Drugs and narcotics.
•   DNA

Forensic chemists use their expertise to help law enforcement by analyzing trace evidence found at crime scenes. This evidence can include fingerprints taken from the scene and compared with the prints of suspects; and urine and blood, which are analyzed for poisons and drugs. Forensic chemists also calibrate breathalyzer machines and testify in drunken driving cases about the devices' accuracy.

Forensic Biology/Pathology
•   Diseases and how they affect the body.
•   Autopsies, cause, time and manner of someone's death.

Forensic biology, or pathology, deals with diseases and how they affect the body. Forensic pathologists help law enforcement through autopsies, where scientists determine the cause and manner of someone's death by examining organs, blood and urine. Based on this information, the police are able to decide if they should pursue a killer or close the case because someone actually died of natural causes.

Forensic pathologists, also referred to as medical examiners, are medical doctors focused on pathology that help investigate the death of a person. Forensic pathologists determine cause of death and may also examine wounds, injuries and tissue that are relevant to the investigation. While they are able to perform a great deal of the work conducted by other areas of forensic science, they often work closely with the specialists from the other fields.

Forensic Dentistry/Odontology
•   identify unknown victims and age.
•   analyze bite marks to link a suspect to a victim.
•   malpractice or personal injury.

Forensic dentists, also known as odontologists, use their training to work in criminal and civil cases. In criminal cases, they may identify unknown victims by comparing remains to dental records, or analyze bite marks that can help link a suspect to a victim. Forensic dentists also work in civil cases that deal with malpractice or personal injury.

Forensic odontologists apply their knowledge of teeth to legal investigations; they can help to identify victims based on dental records. If complete records are not available, they can use the teeth they do have to identify age and other identifying markers that can contribute to finding out who a victim is. They can also analyze bite marks left behind on a victim, both living and deceased, to determine the guilty party.

Forensic Behavioral Sciences (e.g. Forensic Psychiatry)
•   Mental state.
•   Ability to stand trial.
•   Motive.
•   Criminal profiling.
•   Mentally disordered offenders. (paraphilia, pedophilia, psychotic behavior, psychopathy, etc.)

This branch of Forensic Science deals with the psychological side of criminals.
Forensic psychologists and psychiatrists can work in criminal cases where issues like a defendant's fitness to stand trial, testify or decline representation are in dispute. They are also called to render opinions in civil cases that deal with patients' rights. These types of cases can revolve around issues such as involuntary hospitalization, whether a patient can refuse treatment and disability claims.
In addition, forensic psychologists and psychiatrists can act as experts in family law cases such as those involving domestic violence, the custody of children and juvenile delinquency.

Forensic Entomology
•   It applies the study of insects to legal investigations.
•   It focuses on the insects that feed on human remains; these particular insects can be used to determine time and location of death.

Forensic entomology is the study of insects and bugs in criminal cases. Although typically used to study death, it can also be used to detect drugs or decipher the exact time wounds were sustained. One of the most common cases in entomology (as frequently seen on forensic science show Forensic Files) is examining maggots on a body and determining the time of death based on those maggots - scientists know how long it takes for a maggot to complete each life stage, so the current state of the maggots is studied. Blow flies, cheese flies, house flies, and the grossly named flesh flies all behave and reproduce differently from one another. The same goes for the many species of beetles, moths, mites, bees, and ants. That's a lot of potential evidence, especially since bugs and insects are virtually everywhere. Forensic scientists had to find ways of gathering additional research on forensic entomology without losing time by only studying current criminal cases. As a solution, pig carcasses were studied in various environments because of their similarities to the human body. Forensic entomology is even popular in films, such as in the moth pupa autopsy scene from Silence of the Lambs. Going back to the Casey Anthony trial, an entomologist was called in to testify about the presence of 'late colonizers' in Anthony's trunk, or insects which are only present in a decomposing body after it's been dead three to four days. 

Forensic entomologists apply the study of insects to legal investigations. The most oft-used discipline in their field is referred to as medicological, and it focuses on the insects that feed on human remains; these particular insects can be used to determine time and location of death. Forensic entomology can also be helpful in cases in which the victim is still living; studies conducted by forensic entomologists have found cases of parents purposely stinging their children with bees and wasps as punishment.

Forensic Toxicology
•   Toxic substances (alcohol, drugs, etc.) that are found in victims of crime can be used to help determine cause, location and other factors of death, injury.

Forensic toxicologists work on investigations where toxic substances are present. Alcohol, drugs and other substances that are found in victims of crime can be used to help determine cause of death. In other circumstances, drug and alcohol use can help to determine and narrow down potential suspects. Forensic scientists can also chemicals present at the time of death to help determine cause, location and other factors.

Ballistics
•   Ballistics is the science of mechanics that deals with the flight, behavior, and effects of projectiles, especially bullets, gravity bombs, rockets, or the like.
•   ballistics is applied in the determination of legal evidence esp. as concerned with the identification of firearms, ammunition, bullets, and cartridge cases.

Forensic Anthropology
•   It is concerned with identifying human remains based on the skeleton and other remains. (terrorist attacks, plane crashes and natural disasters)
•   Determines the gender, race and size of a victim, cause and time of death, which helps police narrow down that person's identity.
•   Uses skulls to reconstruct the face of a victim.

Forensic anthropologists work in cases that involve tragedies such as terrorist attacks, plane crashes and natural disasters when remains need to be identified. Through their examinations, forensic anthropologists can determine the gender, race and size of a victim, which helps police narrow down that person's identity. In some cases, forensic anthropologists will use skulls to reconstruct the face of a victim, and the rendering is released to the public to generate leads.

For the most part, forensic anthropology is concerned with identifying human remains based on the skeleton; forensic anthropologists can also be of assistance when decomposed remains and cartilage are present. By studying remains, forensic anthropologists are able to provide identifying markers such as age, gender, ancestry and unique features of the deceased. Skeletal remains can also help to determine cause and time of death and whether foul play was involved.
Forensic anthropology involves analyzing the remains of natural disasters, terrorist attacks and plane crashes.

Bomb and Explosive
•   Examinations of evidence associated with explosions and bombings.
•   Forensic examinations of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), incendiary devices, and their respective remains.
•   Nature of explosives used.

GSR
•   Gunshot residue (GSR) is principally composed of burnt and unburnt particles from the explosive primer, the propellant, as well as components from the bullet, the cartridge case and the firearm used.
•   It can link a person to a specific fire arm.

Fire and Arson
•   Determines the origin and cause of fire.
•   Determines whether it is accidental or intentional by finding an accelerant at the scene of a fire.

Forensic Podiatry
Forensic podiatry investigates the feet of suspects of victims and footprints at the crime scene. This branch can determine the estimated weight and even sex of people who entered or left a crime scene. It can also determine what type of footwear a suspect was wearing, allowing investigators to narrow down the suspect pool. They can also often tell how far a victim travelled and over what terrain by studying their feet. In many cases, a forensic podiatrist can also determine which direction a suspect came from, and in which direction they went after the crime was committed.

Forensic Engineering
This branch of forensics typically investigates personal injury or product liability cases. It focuses on materials, products and buildings, determining how the item in question was meant to function and how it actually does function. While it is mostly a part of civil law, it can be used in criminal law cases to help determine whether a crime was an accident, especially in concern to vehicular crimes. In many cases, forensic engineering will also investigate patent cases, determining whether two items are similar enough to warrant a civil suit.

Digital Forensics
This branch of forensic science investigates material found on digital devices, especially computer crimes. While its primary focus is on computers, it can and does include any device that stores digital data, including mobile devices, databases and networks. The type of investigations done by digital forensics varies, though they typically include evidence needed in criminal courts that is obtained from a computer, evidence derived from the internet, or investigations into network intrusions. This science can be used to identify a crime, identify culprits, confirm statements and even prove the authenticity of documents. Digital forensics is one of the largest and most complex parts of forensic science.

Forensic Botany
A forensic botanist knows that there is such thing as a gruesome plant. Forensic science developed forensic botany to cleverly research the nature of a crime using the plants found on or around the victim's body. If the body lies in the park but contains plant matter only found across town by the river, forensic botanists can conclude that the body has been moved. According to Contact Traces (Marriner, 1991), a criminal always takes or leaves something from the scene of the crime - and they aren't the only ones with fingerprints. Plants have 'fingerprints' as well, and trace evidence of those fingerprints can sometimes link a criminal to the victim. The first instance of forensic botany to be used in trial was during the infamous Lindbergh trial, when the discovery of a piece of wood in the criminal's attic was examined. The wood grain exactly matched that of a ladder at the scene of the crime. Forensic science even utilized botany in the recent Casey Anthony; forensic botanist Jane Bock testified that Caylee Anthony's, grown through with roots and leaves, could have been sitting in the woods for as little as two weeks - significantly less than prosecutors had believed. Unfortunately, Casey Anthony went free despite obviously having a hand in her child's death. Forensic science can't solve everything. 

Forensic Limnology
Similar to forensic botany and entomology, the forensic science of limnology utilizes the environment around a crime scene to discover clues. Specifically, limnology studies freshwater sources around the crime scene, and is particularly useful in drowning cases. A drowning victim may decompose significantly in only a short period of time if he or she is immersed in water after death, which can significantly decrease the amount of evidence found in or on the victim's body. Limnology studies diatoms, or algae, to discover whether the person died from drowning or not. A drowning victim will retain diatoms within the lungs and all throughout other internal organs as well, having inhaled water before death. Limnology can also help locate where and when the person was killed, both using the freshwater flora inside the body and studying the development of that flora

Forensic Geophysics
Fred West was a cruel British serial killer who, along with the help of his equally demented wife, murdered as many as 13 young girls. The recovery of multiple bodies buried on his property was sparked after he filmed himself raping two of his own daughters, and the girls told people at school who consequently told the police. Once West began confessing, a technique called forensic geophysics was utilized to uncover the bodies and prosecute West for as many crimes as possible. The forensic geophysics branch of forensic science uses Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to send electromagnetic waves into the ground, which bounce back with a length dependent upon what objects are beneath the ground's surface. Initially invented as a mine detector, GPR was a huge advance in the 90s, but definitely had its flaws. Looking for a small object (such as a shoebox) was nearly impossible, as GPR works better when detecting bulkier objects. 

Forensic Metereology
Forensic science's branch of meteorology utilizes witness accounts, weather reports, and satellite images to determine the weather conditions at the time/scene of a crime. The most frequent usages for forensic meteorology are in murder or insurance fraud investigations. 

Forensic Astronomy
Another relatively mild field of forensic science is forensic astronomy, which studies celestial objects to decipher past celestial constellations. In turn, these constellations can be compared to the past to figure out details about historical events or classic works of art. Forensic astronomy is not often used in trial, but one example of its usefulness in solving crimes can be in photography. Two pictures taken at the same event of the same person can be studied by looking at the shadows within the pictures. The difference between the shadows and the time of day can tell forensic astronomers much about the photograph. 

Forensic Archaeology
Forensic archaeologists combine forensic science and archaeological principles to aid investigators in uncovering and processing evidence. They can uncover evidence such as items buried with a victim, safely uncover buried victims so as not to tamper with the evidence and reconstruct events that took place prior to the occurrence of a crime. This science is also useful in processing the items that may have covered a victim, such as leaves or fallen walls, providing the investigation with information concerning the crime itself and its timing. They can also aid in uncovering mass graves, as well as providing information for civil court cases concerning boundary disputes. This branch of archaeology provides priceless information to the investigation concerning the way in which a victim died, how they were killed and under what circumstances they were buried.

Forensic Artists & Sculptors
Forensic artists can draw a likeness of a person based solely on eyewitness accounts. Modern techniques of computer animation are increasingly used in the process. Forensic sculptors can reconstruct faces, usually in modeling clay or on a computer from skulls or other fragments. The expertise may enable the police to find out who a person was when no other clues are available. This technique was found extremely useful in Mumbai blasts investigation where the face of the suspect who was allegedly killed in the blast was also reconstructed with the help of this technology.

Forensic Geology
Forensic geologists can determine such things as where the suspect or victim walked by examining soil samples taken from their shoes or feet.

Forensic Serology
Forensic serology is the study of blood groups, blood, and other bodily fluids for identification purposes following a crime. Forensic serologists also carry out DNA fingerprinting, which offers the possibility of positive identification of an individual from samples of blood or semen.

Written by:
Mr Quazi MH Supan
Associate professor
University of Dhaka
« Last Edit: April 15, 2018, 05:26:59 PM by Md. Anikuzzaman »