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Forensic Identification Resource Library

Forensic identification is the process of applying scientific methods to identify humans or products for use inside a courtroom. The definition of the term “forensics” is “for the courts”. Therefore, one of the main purposes of forensic identification is to preserve evidence and the findings that can be drawn from it for use in a courtroom. Because of this, many forensic scientists work for local or national government bodies, such as police or the federal government. Scientists gather and process evidence gathered at the scene of a crime and write reports about that evidence for use in court. Sometimes, however, forensic scientists assist in solving crimes by gathering evidence at a crime scene or reenacting the crime. There are several subsections of forensic science, including forensic toxicology, pathology and entomology.

Human Identification

Forensic scientists can identify people through their fingerprints, DNA, teeth or through their handwriting. With the potential exception of handwriting, none of the aforementioned aspects of an individual are ever the same as another human. If proper computer software is used, scientists can also identify people through their gait, voice or appearance. These methods of identification can be used to name the culprit or victim of a crime or to analyze other evidence pertinent to the crime. Body identification is a subset of human forensic identification. Body identification works to name a person after death from his or her remains. DNA, fingerprints and teeth are commonly used in body identification procedures.

  • The International Association for Identification: The official website for the association of forensic scientists, this page contains information about the field, certification as a forensic scientist and publications pertaining to the field.
  • The American Academy of Forensic Sciences: This organization is comprised of scientists working with the forensic sciences in medicine, dentistry and other fields.
  • The Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations: This page is dedicated to the organization that permits interaction between the other forensic science organizations. It is a resource to the other associations.
  • The Fingerprint Society: This organization is dedicated to the use, study and development of the use of fingerprints to identify humans.
  • Why Identical Twins Have Different Fingerprints: This page explains why individuals with identical DNA – i.e. identical twins – can have different fingerprints.
  • Ask A Forensic Artist: This website explains the use of forensic drawings to identify individuals. The FAQ’s page discusses the career and the methods used by many forensic artists.
  • Forensic Identification: Hosted by the Cognitive Consultants, this page provides a general overview on the scientific field.
  • Handwriting Evidence Meets Reliability Criteria: This article discusses how handwriting analysis is a valid source of information to use in court. The bottom of the page contains links to other forensic focused websites.
  • The Forensic Panel: The Forensic Panel is a company that offers professional forensic scientists to testify in court. This site demonstrates the need for forensic science and evidence to be usable in a court of law.
  • Justice Issues: Forensic Science: Provided by the Office of Justice Programs, this site provides links to the major forensic science training institutions.
  • Can DNA Demand A Verdict?: Provided by the Genetic Science Learning Center of the University of Utah, this article discusses using DNA analysis for human identification.
  • Mass Fatality Incidents: This page contains a link to a report by the Department of Justice providing guidelines on using forensic science to identify individuals in amass casualty situation.
  • Advice about A Career in Forensic Science: This article discusses the major job duties of a forensic scientist.
  • A Career in Forensic Science: Provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this article discusses the aspects of a career as a forensic scientist.

Product Identification

Sometimes, rather than identifying a particular person, courts need to identify an item or product involved in a crime. Printers, copiers, paper shredders and typewriters can all be identified forensically either by their type of paper, embedded identification markers or printing variations. Firearms can be identified by the markings they make on a bullet as it leaves the firearm’s chamber. Computers can be identified through the Internet network they relied on or used during a transmission. Automobiles can be identified by tire tread, VIN number or other markers. Forensic science can be used in all these instances to show that an individual had access to or used a product during the commission of a crime.

Computer Printers & Copiers

Documents

Firearms

Paper Shredders

  • Paper Analysis: This article discusses the things that forensic scientists look for when analyzing paper.
  • Forensic Document Examination: This page provides basic information on forensic document examination.
  • Document Analysis: This page explains the work of a forensic document examiner, including reconstructing documents that have been shredded.

Photo Identification

Other Forensic Resources