Forensic science has advanced a long way since the days of examining a footprint under a hand held microscope. Modern forensic methods use science and advanced technology to assist law enforcement and other agencies in collecting evidence and getting information about a case or incident. Inactive cases put aside years ago may now have a chance at being resolved, thanks to new forensic investigation techniques.
Forensic teams use a variety of modern forensic methods to analyze data from crime scenes and to investigate individuals suspected of committing a crime. Digital forensics is the practice used to gather and analyze evidence from a computer or digital imprint. For example, if a company fires someone that worked with confidential documents, the employer may hire a digital forensic scientist to review the employee's computer and emails to make sure the employee did not steal any documents. Another time this would be used is if a person has been accused of a crime such as downloading explicit images from the Internet or suspected of planning a terrorist act, then the Federal Bureau of Investigations will investigate their computer for Internet history, images, and downloads. Law enforcement officials will then use the computer and any information on it as evidence.
Another modern form of examination is forensic entomology that involves the study of insects found inside or near the body. The reason why this forensic method is so important is the insects help in determining how long the body has been in a specific spot or if someone moved it from the original location. For instance, if the body was found inside a building but had insect larvae inside it from an insect commonly found in the woods, this would be an indicator that the person may have expired in the woods and left there for a few days before being moved to the building. Scientists also analyze the insects for unknown toxins or DNA since the insects could have ingested bodily fluids on the victim's skin.
When investigators need to determine how someone has died but the body has decomposed and only the victim's skeleton remains, the bone fragments will be examined by forensic scientists who work in the area of anthropology. If any teeth remain, the scientist will take x-rays of the teeth to see if they can get a match from dental records and identify the body. Forensic scientists can also analyze bone scatter, bone density and condition of clothes found at the scene to estimate when the person died.
The method of analyzing DNA has also drastically improved since Dr. Alec Jeffreys introduced DNA profiling to the courts in 1985. In recent years, forensic scientists have used DNA fingerprinting as well as other modern forensic methods to convict rapists and murderers and also to free individuals wrongly convicted of a crime before the use of DNA testing.
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