Spotlight on a Discipline: Forensics.

AuthorValdez, Bianca

Forensics is an emerging field that applies science and law to solve crimes. When discussing forensics, the TV show, Crime Scene Investigation (CSI), is often mentioned. Shows like CSI have been a positive influence in the forensics field as they create an interest in the field. However, while CSI does portray aspects of forensic science, it is not always the most realistic. In some ways, it has negatively impacted the expectation of forensic science in criminal cases. Known as the CSI-effect; this occurs when juries expect real-life court cases to emulate CSI. There is an expectation that there should be detailed, easy-to-understand forensic evidence in every case. This causes issues with the way the jury processes the facts of a case. Forensic evidence will not be a part of every case, and when it is presented to the jury, it is presented by an expert witness--someone who has been studying and working with the subject matter for many years. At trial, he/she has to break down all his/her knowledge, learning, and training into layman's terms so it is easily understood by the jury. It is easy for this to get lost in translation, which can cause confusion.

There are many different branches of forensic science including digital forensics, forensic accounting, forensic toxicology, forensic odontology, and criminalistics. This brief introduction to the social science of forensics will go over an overview of various types of forensic science, hopefully giving readers a bit of insight beyond the CSI-effect.

Digital forensics, previously referred to as computer forensics, entails analysis of all electronic devices, including computers, cell phones, and even printers/fax machines. Digital forensics does not aim to prove someone's innocence or guilt. Rather, its purpose is presenting evidence found through digital forensics processes. When arriving at any crime scene, it is imperative for first responders to secure the scene; no unauthorized personnel should be allowed onto the crime scene. The investigators must then thoroughly document and photograph the scene exactly how it is found. Every piece of evidence must be properly tagged and transported to a secure location and every piece of evidence must have a chain of custody. A chain of custody is a form that tracks the whereabouts of the evidence. This form is important in order to maintain integrity of the evidence, especially if a case is going to court. It has to be proven that the evidence can...

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