How Forensic Science Is Used in Criminal Investigation

We’ve all seen crime TV shows that demonstrate a lab technician running tests to prove the case against a criminal. What’s interesting is that Hollywood is known for exaggerating a lot, but they’re spot on when it comes to forensic science (with the addition of some drama, of course). In fact, forensic scientists play a vital role in an investigation and often make the most important findings. If you’d like to learn how forensic science is used in criminal investigations, we have you covered in the guide below.

Analysis of retrieved evidence

The most important facet of forensic science is inspecting evidence in various ways. Most people make the false presumption that evidence always consists of physical items that directly link to a suspect, such as a shoe from the crime scene, a piece of hair, or a fingerprint. While all that is viable evidence, not all investigations operate that way. More often than not, forensic scientists and law enforcement officials must work together to piece the evidence together before reaching a conclusion. Common examples of evidence include purchase receipts, handwritten notes, and the information pulled from computers, tablets, and cellphones.

People often think a forensic scientist is always looking down a microscope, and while that’s sometimes true, they also spend a lot of time looking at computers as well. Since most people spent extensive time on their electronic devices and always have a cellphone on their person, a forensic scientist that specializes in computer science and programming can often reach a person’s phone records, browsing history, GPS coordinates, and sometimes even deleted files.

Lab equipment makes analysis possible

While computers play a vital role in the research and development of a hypothesis, forensic scientists need laboratory equipment to confirm or deny their findings. Criminologists can use analytical tools like mass spectrometry to analyze physical evidence. In addition, forensic labs frequently use various types of chromatography to better develop their hypotheses. Mass spectrometry, specifically, plays a role in various criminal investigations—arson, in particular. A mass spectrometer can detect abnormal substances in the debris of a fire, such as a fuel source. Moreover, mass spectrometers and chromatographs are two common analytical instruments used to develop a toxicology report.

There are several ways forensic science is used in criminal investigations, but as you’ve learned, it’s mostly to analyze evidence. Law officials depend on forensic science to make an arrest and possibly find a motive. Moreover, prosecutors rely on findings to make their case against the defendant.

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