by Juan Salvo
Forensic science is not just what you see on television shows like CSI but rather the use of actual science to help determine the answer to varied legal questions. There are many different types of forensic disciplines that are used to help police and other officials answer these questions. These include criminalistics, forensic psychology, forensic pathology and others.
Criminalistics is the science used to help understand the evidence in crimes. Evidence used in criminalistics can include biological evidence, trace evidence, impression evidence, controlled substances and ballistics. Biological evidence is usually bodily fluids such as semen and blood. Trace evidence are items like hair and fibers. Impression evidence are items like foot prints, impressions of car tires and fingerprints. Criminalistics is usually investigated in a crime lab. Many cities with very large populations have crime labs within their police departments. These include Miami-Dade, Florida and the famous Las Vegas crime lab.
Forensic psychology is the study of the mind of a criminal. Forensic psychologists usually study the motivations that led an individual to commit a certain crime. Forensic psychology has recently come into the limelight as more and more television shows have started to feature it. These includes CSI, NCIS and Criminal Minds. Criminal Minds especially digs into why a person committed the crime so that they may locate the victim before it is too late. Forensic psychology has also been discredited by some as being interpreted in court as opinion and what might have been going through an individual?s mind, not what actually went through the individual?s mind.
Forensic pathology is the study of the cause of death. Literally, pathology is used to determine how someone died and the forensic findings are usually used to backup a court case. Forensic pathology has also recently become popular for television shows such as CSI and NCIS. Many of the cases involve a mystery over death.
There have also been many other forensic sciences such as forensic meteorology, and forensic geology, although these are used much less often than other branches of forensic science. Many of them just involve using analytical skills to determine the cause of the events.
As with any science there have been some disagreements over the scientific effectiveness of certain forensic sciences. One of these cases was an experiment by the FBI. Comparative bullet lead analysis was used by the FBI for over 40 years starting when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. The theory was that each batch of bullets had a specific chemical composition, much like an element on the periodic table, and therefore could be traced back to its original batch or even down to the very box. However, internal studies showed this to be exactly the opposite and the test was finally pulled in 2005.
No matter what you may think, forensic science affects you each and every day. Forensic science allows scientific means to be applied to almost any situation so that there can be a root cause determined. Forensic science in any form is just the answering of a legal question using analytical means.