Forensic Science

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What Is Forensic Science?

"Forensic science" can refer to any type of science which is applied in solving a crime. Physical anthropologists are often called in by police departments to study skeletal remains, in order to determine cause of death, and help identify the victim. Biologists can be very helpful in analyzing DNA evidence. People who are well-versed in any other branch of science have been useful in solving crimes at one point or another.

Forensic science degree programs train students in a variety of different fields. Generally, people go into forensic science after they’ve already obtained significant scientific training.

What Are Some Legal Issues Surrounding Forensic Science?

Like any scientific or technological field, forensic science is always advancing and changing. When a new forensic science technique emerges, there are always questions about whether and how this new science can be used in court.

DNA fingerprinting was first discovered as an extremely accurate technique for identifying individuals in the late 1980s, but courts and police departments were very reluctant to use it until the mid 1990s. This is because courts and law enforcement officials tend to be very cautious when it comes to relying on new technologies.

As another example, it was discovered in the late 1700s that fingerprints were unique to each individual. However, fingerprint evidence is not known to have been used in a court of law until 1902, over 100 years later. Now, of course, it’s taken for granted that fingerprints are one of the first things a forensic scientist should look for at a crime scene.

In forensic science degree programs, students will be taught about some of these legal issues, and the basics of the law of evidence, in an effort to ensure that they have a broader context when conducting forensic investigations.

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Last Modified: 08-24-2011 11:09 AM PDT

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