There is no single definition of forensic accounting, but what everyone agrees on is that forensic accounting involves applying accounting concepts and techniques to legal issues. It is a specialty that requires the integration of investigative, accounting and auditing skills. According to Dee Studler, founder of SDC CPAs, a global investigation and forensic accounting firm, […]
The word ‘forensic’ is derived from the Latin word ‘forensis’ that relates to a discussion or examination performed in public. Forensic science is the application of science and the scientific method to matters of law and resolution of legal conflicts. It is a multi-disciplinary subject which draws upon physics, chemistry, biology, computer science and other scientific principles and methods and is concerned with the recognition, identification, individualisation, and evaluation of physical evidence.
As society moves towards more scientific response to solving crime, significant advances have been made in the fields of serology, fingerprint and footprint analysis, handwriting analysis, ballistics and toxicology among others. Forensic scientists study and interpret the different types of evidence found at a crime scene. They employ techniques and tools for recovery and collection of crime scene evidence, so as to ensure that criminal evidence is recovered and retained without being contaminated and altered, packed and sent in a scientific and safe manner to the laboratory where the latest techniques are deployed and applied to extract prosecutable evidence that will link the evidence to the scene of crime and finally to the criminal so that he or she may be successfully prosecuted. Forensic scientists not only analyse and interpret evidence but also provide expert witness testimony in the Courts.
Forensic science has developed its own laws and principles. They guide the disciplines and methodologies of science in analysing the evidence impacting the proceedings in the Court of law. The following laws and principles are essential in crime scene investigation to link a suspect to the victim and the crime scene.
1. Locard’s Exchange Principle
Edmund Locard (1877-1966), a French scientist postulated the exchange principle in 1928 which asserts that every contact leaves a trace.
According to Locard, when a person or his instruments comes into contact with another person or object, a cross transfer of materials occur. They leave trace, and likewise pick up traces from the same contact. Such transfer or exchange may be large or small, visible or invisible, readily detectable or difficult to detect. It is the responsibility of the Investigating Officers to search, identify and collect such evidences.
Thus, a mutual exchange of traces takes place between the criminal, the victim and the objects involved in the crime. Every criminal can be linked to a crime by dust particles carried from the crime scene. For instance, in a case involving counterfeit coins, Locard asked the police to bring the three suspect’s clothing to his lab. After examination he recovered small metallic particles from the cloth material which made up the composition of the coins. Confronted with this evidence, the suspects were arrested and soon confessed to the crime.
2. Principle of Evidence Recovery
The principle of evidence recovery provides that no harm should be done to the evidence. Nothing should be added, lost, damaged or obliterated in the recovery process.
Careful attention should be taken to avoid contamination. Great care should be taken when there is a risk of losing or damaging evidence. Exhibit items need to be safely and securely packaged and transported to the laboratory.
3. Law of Individuality
Law of individuality is attributed to Paul L. Kirk (1902-1970) and provides that two objects may be indistinguishable; however no two objects are identical.
Individuality implies that every entity, whether person or object, can only be identical to itself and so is unique. It expresses that all articles or objects, man-made or natural, possess an individual character which under no circumstances is duplicated. Everything involved in a crime has an individuality which when established connects the crime to the criminal. The reasons for this could be either minor flaw present in the raw material, or imperfect stamping or variation in configuration of the crystals or substitution of some quantity of extraneous matter.
4. Law of Progressive Change
Law of progressive change provides that everything changes with the passage of time.
Change is inevitable. Different types of objects may take different time spans. Sample degrade with time, bodies decompose, firearm barrel loosen, tire tracks fade, metal objects rust. The scene of occurrence undergoes rapid changes.
5. Principle of Comparison
Principle of comparison asserts that only the likes can be compared. It emphasises the need of providing like samples and specimen for comparisons with the questioned items. A questioned hair can only be compared to another hair sample, likewise with blood samples, bite marks, tire marks, tool marks, etc.
Two objects are said to match when there are no unexplained, forensically significant differences between them.
If a comparison is conducted as the final and ultimate test, the rule is if in doubt, exclude. Whereas, if the comparison is conducted as a screening prior to the other tests, the rule is if in doubt, include.
6. Principle of Analysis
The principle of analysis stresses on the need of correct sampling and correct packing for effective use by experts. The quality of any analysis is determined by the quality of the sample under analysis, the chain of custody, and the expertise of the individual who analyses it.
The analysis can be no better than the sample analysed. Improper sampling and contamination render the best analysis useless.
7. Principle of Presentation
The principle of presentation provides that the laboratory report should be readily understandable and impartial. It should neither be understated, not overstated.
Complete disclosure should be made of all facts, assumptions, data, conclusions and interpretations.
8. Law of Probability
The law of probability asserts that all identification, definite or indefinite, is made, consciously or unconsciously, on the basis of probability.
Probability determines the chances of occurrence of a particular event in a particular way.
9. Law of Circumstantial Facts
The law of circumstantial facts has its basis in ‘facts do not lie, men can and do’.
The oral testimony depends upon the power of observation, assimilation and reproduction of the witness. It may be disturbed by rationality, external influence, suggestions, descriptions and opinions of others. Whereas factual evidence is free from these infirmities.
Thus, evidences given by victims or eye witnesses may not always be accurate. Sometimes they may intentionally lie or make up facts, or exaggerate or make assumptions or give evidence while having to rely on their poor senses. On the other hand, evidence which gives a factual account e.g. based on investigation and evidence has a higher chance of being accurate and is more reliable.
The word ‘forensic’ is derived from the Latin word ‘forensis’ that relates to a discussion or examination performed in public. Forensic science is the application of science and the scientific method to matters of law and resolution of legal conflicts. It is a multi-disciplinary subject which draws upon physics, chemistry, biology, computer science and other […]
[Link to part 1] | [Link to part 2] | [Link to part 3] I knew I’d think of something else after I thought this whole post series was complete. But this post will be brief. Benefit statements are not only affected by the target customers, but are also affected by the “personality” of the […]
The latest findings show that with clever science, a single fingerprint left at a crime scene could be used to determine whether someone has touched or ingested class A drugs.
In a paper published in Royal Society of Chemistry’s Analyst journal, a team of researchers at the University of Surrey, in collaboration with the National Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry Imaging at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and Ionoptika Ltd reveal how they have been able to identify the differences between the fingerprints of people who touched cocaine compared with those who have ingested the drug – even if the hands are not washed. The smart science behind the advance is the mass spectrometry imaging tools applied to the detection of cocaine and its metabolites in fingerprints.
This is a step up from research previously conducted by the University. In 2020 Surrey researchers were able to determine the difference between touch and ingestion if someone had washed their hands prior to giving a sample. Given that a suspect at a crime scene is unlikely to wash their hands before leaving fingerprints, these new findings are a significant advantage to crime forensics.
The Surrey team have continued to use their world-leading experimental fingerprint drug testing approach based on high-resolution mass spectrometry. Cocaine and its primary metabolite – benzoylecgonine*, can be imaged in fingerprints produced after either ingestion or contact with cocaine using these techniques. By analysing the images of cocaine and its metabolite in a fingerprint, and exploring the relationship between these molecules and the fingerprint ridges, it is possible to tell the difference between a person who has ingested a drug, and someone who has only touched it.
Dr Melanie Bailey, Reader in Forensic and Analytical Science and EPSRC Fellow at the University of Surrey, said: “Over the decades, fingerprinting technology has provided forensics with a great deal of information about gender and medication. Now, these new findings will inform forensics further when it comes to determining the use of class A drugs.
“In forensic science being able to understand more about the circumstances under which a fingerprint was deposited at a crime scene is important. This gives us the opportunity to reconstruct more detailed information from crime scenes in the future. The new research demonstrates that this is possible for the first time using high-resolution mass spectrometry techniques.”
Dr Allen Bellew, Applications & Marketing Manager at Ionoptika, commented: “To image these metabolites excreted through the skin requires very powerful analytical tools such as the unique Water Cluster Source that Ionoptika has been developing for over a decade. It’s clear that this new technique will be important for forensic science in the future, and as a small business in the UK it’s very exciting to see the role that our J105 SIMS instrument has played in its development.”
Dr Chelsea Nikula, Higher Research Scientist, NPL said: “This novel application of three different techniques illustrates the capabilities of mass spectrometry imaging to enable next-generation forensics analyses. It is great to see that the work we do here at NPL and the facilities we have available to us at the National Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry Imaging helped support this research.”
*Benzoylecgonine is a molecule produced in the body when cocaine is ingested, and it is essential in distinguishing those who have consumed the class A drug from those who have handled it.
The latest findings show that with clever science, a single fingerprint left at a crime scene could be used to determine whether someone has touched or ingested class A drugs. In a paper published in Royal Society of Chemistry’s Analyst journal, a team of researchers at the University of Surrey, in collaboration with the National Centre […]
A Drug Inspector is a professional in the field of Pharmacy who is an expert in monitoring and executing efficiency, safety, quality and usefulness of drugs from the production stage to the final i.e, selling stage . Those who make it to the selection process can live a great professional life with a high-paying job. […]
Modern people aren’t exactly without our flaws, but for the most part we’re less willfully creepy than our forebearers. Sure, there are a lot of people who still can’t be bothered to wash their hands after using the toilet, and there are evidently loads of people who send unsolicited photos of certain body parts to […]
A staple location in any mystery is the crime scene. You know, the one where cops and forensic scientists take photos and collect evidence. It’s that evidence that helps our detective crack the case. In other words, forensics are integral to any mystery or crime novel.
The only problem is that the task of collecting and analyzing evidence is usually grossly misrepresented by Hollywood. It is also detailed work, which makes getting it right in your novel paramount.
To make things more interesting is there are numerous sub-fields to the discipline, so you’ll need to craft different characters for each role. Thankfully, there are writers out there that have blazed a trail for you and amassed numerous resources for us to use.
What is Forensics?
Before we go any further into the resources and how to use forensics in our writing, let’s define what this scientific discipline is:
Forensics: The application of the methods of the natural and physical sciences to matters of criminal and civil law.
According to Britannica, forensic science is involved in criminal investigation and prosecution and civil wrong cases, such as willful pollution or industrial injuries.
The Different Types
And if you think about it, there are many different types of sciences used in forensics. For instance, here are 16 types of forensic science:
Trace Evidence Analysis
And that’s not all of them. There are more, and what you use in your story will depend on the type of crime your character is investigating.
It makes this a bit daunting when you’re thinking about the research you’ll have to do into each branch. There are ways around this, but you should know the basics about evidence collection, who collects it, and how it’s analyzed.
Forensics Research Resources
When writing our detective story or police procedural, our focus is on the investigator of the crime. We aren’t looking closely at our secondary characters, which means we may not be doing our research.
And if we aren’t doing proper research, we might be assigning our detective duties outside of their role. Before we go into anything else, I want you to look at this infographic from Rasmussen College on who is present on a crime scene.
Aside from the police officers on-site, you also have a forensic photographer taking pictures of the evidence. Your medical examiner and forensic pathologist are there to figure out how and when the victim died and to gather any evidence to help confirm these details later. And finally, you have a forensic science technician that collects all the evidence from the crime scene and classifies it, so it goes to the right people back at the lab.
Just because several people are on the crime scene, it doesn’t mean the crime scene is a free-for-all. There is a strict hierarchy of who is allowed on the crime scene at a given time.
Also, make sure that you’re up on the latest technology to lift fingerprints, collect DNA, etc. Here’s an infographic from eLocal Lawyers to get you started:
Get to Know Your Forensics Field
Each branch of forensics deals with a particular part of an investigation. For example, ballistics deals with guns, odontology deals with dental work, etc. If you are using a specific type of evidence, like dental work, look into the following things:
What evidence is looked at by that branch?
How that evidence is collected?
How long it takes to analyze the evidence?
Does the evidence support the investigation and prosecution of the crime? And in what ways?
What a negative result looks like and what successful results look like?
What’s real or made-up by Hollywood?
Here’s an infographic that explains the myths surrounding DNA evidence by Criminologia:
Some other authors have also created in-depth articles about specific forensic fields, like this one from the Creative Penn.
Besides knowing who does what, you need to look into several other avenues to make your fiction as realistic as possible. Here’s how you can do that:
Read some books.
The best way to find some things to look into is by reading within your genre. And if you want a thoroughly entertaining read from a forensic scientist, then you can’t go wrong with Kathy Reichs, the author behind the Bones TV show.
I’ve linked you to her about page. It tells you about all of her real-life experience in the field, so she knows what she’s talking about. The about page also links to numerous institutions that contain valuable, credible research information that you can use in your story.
You can also turn to nonfiction and read the following books and articles for writers:
You can also check out textbooks for forensics students, biographies, true crime stories, etc.
Check the Internet or Your Local Library
Libraries, especially your local university or college libraries, are fantastic resources for finding information. These libraries house academic texts and often have specialized collections and rare materials.
The college library is also the place to research articles from professional, scientific, and academic journals. These journals are a great way to find information about the latest news, breakthroughs, theories, and research within the various forensic specialties.
Additionally, your friendly search engine is an excellent way for you to start amassing your library of links on forensic science sites. You want to look for websites affiliated with educational institutions, media outlets that investigate and cover forensic issues, professional forensics organizations, law enforcement agencies, and experienced forensic investigators.
Talk to the Experts
The best place for you to find the information you need is to go straight to the source: the forensic experts. That means you’ll need to leverage your networking skills to find someone. You can also contact professors from your local college or university.
And if you don’t want to talk to someone, you can flip through some forensic science magazines to read interviews and articles on the subject. Or to get contact information so you can speak to them. (It’s still your best bet to get the information you need.)
Forensic specialists are busy people, so it may be worth your time to learn how to conduct an interview (AKA, ask pointed questions to get what you need). Here are some resources for helping you hone your interviewing skills:
Remember to thank your expert for their time and send a follow up “Thank you” note.
Your story might not cover the case’s prosecution, but it’s good to know how forensic evidence is used in court and what types of evidence are seen as “more concrete” than others.
What can affect your story is the collection of evidence from a suspect’s home or person. You may want to look into the legal documents or statements that police and investigators need before they begin taking objects into evidence.
How to Write a Forensics Novel
Now that we have the research portion of our writing process out of the way, we need to focus on putting it into action. So without further adieu, here is what you need to think about when adding forensics to your story:
Setting up your crime scene.
You need to give this some thought on two fronts. First, you need to provide clues that will help your protagonist solve the crime. You also need to think about what your antagonist will do to cover their tracks.
Here’s an infographic on some ways your murderer may cover his tracks:
Why does this matter?
Because whatever your criminal does will leave behind certain types of evidence – your red herrings. These are a must-have in mystery or thriller because they help create suspense and keep your readers guessing until the end.
Put it in writing.
Earlier in this post, I told you there was a way around creating a new character for every forensic expert your protagonist interacts with. And the best way you can do that is by giving your protagonist reports to read.
And this is where you can have some fun. You can have your protagonist talk to their partner about the results, or you can format your page to look like a report. (It could look a little like this.)
Focus on one aspect of forensics.
I’m not saying that you need to focus on one type of forensics only, still use common evidence types, like fingerprinting, DNA, etc. but focus on an aspect you want to explore. Once you do that, exploit it for all the drama you can get out of it.
A common thing to focus on in true crime accounts or other crime stories is the killer or criminal’s psyche. People find this fascinating, and you can play into that to make your story more dramatic and suspenseful. Whatever you choose, ensure it is a central theme or piece of evidence for your novel.
Many mortis factors are considered when estimating time of death. Temperature is the biggie, followed by body mass.
A dead body will naturally adjust temperature (algor) to achieve equilibrium with its surroundings and will display time-telling factors, such as muscle stiffening (rigor), blood settling (livor), color (palor), and tissue breakdown (decomp). The presence of toxins also effects body changes. Cocaine amplifies the mortis process, while carbon monoxide retards it. Be careful in getting your forensic guru to commit on specific time.
The answer is in forensics.
Or the smallest of details. Author Sue Coletta highlighted this beautifully in her post about writing realistic crime scenes. She provides her readers with two cases and alters the crime scene in a small way.
When the officers find a small changed detail, they can solve the crime and arrest the appropriate person. That’s why many TV shows and novels have the detective go through all the evidence again to find that one small thing they missed.
And you can do this for your novel as well. If you want to, that is. You can always try to come up with a new way to bring the perpetrator to justice.
Forensics is an essential part of any investigation. It helps our detective find out who the killer is and bring them to justice.
They are also nasty little details that can make or break your reader’s suspension of belief if they’re not well-researched. Hopefully, I’ve made your research easier by providing you with a list of resources for you to use.
And don’t forget to pay attention to how your criminal will cover their tracks. It could be a small detail that’s their undoing.
Why are we fascinated with forensics and crime? Any Bones fans out there? Did I miss anything, or do you have any more tips? Please let me know in the comments below!
Stay safe, everyone.
Until next time.
A staple location in any mystery is the crime scene. You know, the one where cops and forensic scientists take photos and collect evidence. It’s that evidence that helps our detective crack the case. In other words, forensics are integral to any mystery or crime novel. The only problem is that the task of collecting and analyzing […]
In Crime Scene Investigation, An investigator needs some tools which help in collecting evidences, preserving crime scene, etc. Here is the list of some essential items for investigating officers which they need to carry with them all time, especially on a crime-scene.