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Branches of Forensic Science

Forensic Science with its multi-disciplinary approach is that essential link that helps glue together all kinds of evidence in any form of investigation. It involves the application of the principles and methodologies of various disciplines of science to legal matters. Here is a bird's eye view of the diverse branches of Forensic Science.
  1. Trace Evidence Analysis:

    Going by Locard's Principle that everything leaves a contact, trace evidence analysis provides crucial links to the perpetrator. Trace evidence is anything that is transferred during the commitment of a crime such as human/animal hair, rope, soil, fabric fibers, feathers, building materials etc. Trace Evidence Analysis involves the recovery of such evidence and their forensic examination to obtain information that can be used in the court of law in association with a case or to answer any other legal query.

  2. Forensic Toxicology:

    Forensic Toxicology is the study of the presence of toxic substance inside a body and the effect that they had on the individual. It encompasses methods and procedures from various disciplines such as analytical and clinical chemistry, and pharmacology to aid in the medical and legal investigation of death due to poisoning or drugs. This branch of forensic science is of prime importance in road accidents, poisoning, and sexual violence.

  3. Forensic Psychology:

    Forensic Psychology is the application of psychology to legal and criminal matters. Forensic psychologists study criminals and their crimes to draw conclusions about the personality traits of the perpetrators and thus assist in criminal profiling. Criminal profiling involves giving a detailed description of the personality and behavioral traits of the criminal. Forensic psychologists perform multi-faceted tasks some of which are counseling victims of a crime, evaluating child custody, death notification procedures, and evaluation of post-traumatic stress disorder.

  4. Forensic Podiatry:

    Forensic Podiatry deals with the application of specific podiatric knowledge i.e. an understanding of the abnormalities and diseases of the ankle, foot, and lower body, and lower limb anatomy, and musculoskeletal function. This is particularly helpful in the investigation of foot-based evidence with respect to a criminal incident.

  5. Forensic Pathology:

    The branch of pathology that deals with the examination of a corpse to determine the cause of death is called Forensic Pathology. It involves the deduction of facts admissible in the court of law by collecting and analyzing medical samples. For example, a forensic pathologist can examine a wound to identify the weapon used to cause that. Therefore, forensic pathology helps draw crucial inferences on whether the death is natural, criminal or accidental.

  6. Forensic Odontology:

    Forensic Odontology/Forensic Dentistry involves the proper handling, analysis, and evaluation of any form of dental evidence that would be later used as a legal evidence in the court of law. Often when the victim's body is left in an unrecognizable state, it is forensic odontology that helps investigators in identifying them. Criminal investigations comprising bite marks largely involve the discipline of Forensic Odontology.

  7. Forensic Linguistics:

    Forensic Linguistics involves the application of linguistic knowledge and methods to criminal investigations and judicial proceedings. Such linguistic experts are skilled at analyzing the written and spoken language of a perpetrator to draw crucial inferences about the offender's age, gender, age, education level, culture, ethnicity, socio-economic and geographical background, and for that matter even spiritual and religious beliefs! They are involved in the careful examination of forensic texts such as emergency calls, demands of ransom, suicide notes, social media and death row statements.

  8. Forensic Geology:

    Forensic Geology or Geoforensics deals with the examination of evidence related to materials found in the Earth such as oil, petroleum, minerals, soil, rocks and the like. Such examination is associated with the forensic context such as investigations and answering questions put forward by the legal system. Thus, Forensic Geologists analyze earth materials recovered from the incident scene, victim or suspect to strengthen evidence against the suspect, draw inferences about the time and cause of the incident and to obtain other relevant information as a part of the investigation.

  9. Forensic Entomology:

    Forensic Entomology involves the application and study of the biology of insects and other arthropods to solve criminal cases. Due to the presence of such organisms in decomposing ruins, forensic entomology is primarily used for death investigations, determination of the location of an incident, postmortem interval and to arrive at the precise time of the infliction of wounds.

  10. Forensic Engineering:

    Forensic Engineering involves the application of engineering principles for the investigation and analysis of mechanical and structural failures that cause personal injury or property damage.

  11. Forensic DNA Analysis:

    In addition to fingerprints, DNA is the other biological parameter which is unique to a particular individual. DNA profiling is a commonly used forensic technique in criminal investigations for the identification of an anonymous person or to zero in on the perpetrator. The biological evidence used for DNA profiling include hair, skin, semen, urine, blood, saliva and even body remains in burn cases.

  12. Forensic Botany:

    Forensic Botany is the study and examination of plant-based evidence (leaves, flowers, wood, fruits, seeds, pollen) for criminal and non-criminal investigations and for answering other legal questions. Though it is still quite under-utilized in forensic investigations, application of botany in criminal investigations have helped investigators in the past to ascertain the manner and time of death in certain complex cases. Botanic trace evidence recovered from an incident scene often help in establishing crucial links to the suspect(s).

  13. Forensic Archeology:

    Forensic Archeological techniques along with the use of photography and imaging enable forensic archeologists to assist the police and investigating officers to identify the site where the victim's body and personal items, or robbed goods are buried. Forensic archeologists are also often leveraged for carrying out excavations or digs at historical and pre-historical sites. They often carry out mass excavations to produce evidence for war crimes trials, gas or bomb explosions, plane crashes and the like.

  14. Forensic Anthropology:

    In the course of an incident, bodies are sometimes rendered unrecognizable due to mutilation, burning, natural degradation etc. In such cases, Forensic Anthropology comes into the picture. Forensic anthropologists can examine human bodies/skeletons to help identify the individuals and arrive at the cause of death. They are skilled at determining the age, sex, race, and physique of an individual from the bones or bone fragments. Additionally, they can also determine the manner of death (suicide, accidental or due to disease), as well as if a bone injury retrieved was before, during or after the death.

  15. Digital Forensics:

    Digital Forensics involves the extraction and analysis of digital evidence (such as those found in computers, hard disks, USB drives etc.). It is mostly used in the investigation of cybercrimes. Digital Forensics is also associated with the criminal law where the digital evidence recovered is used to support or counter a hypothesis in the court of law.

  16. Forensic Ballistics:

    Forensic Ballistics involves the analysis of any evidence related to firearms (bullets, bullet marks, shell casings, gunpowder residue etc.). This branch of science is particularly used in the investigation of incidents involving the use of a firearm, to draw inferences on the exact weapon used, the distance, velocity, and angle of firing, and ultimately the shooter himself.

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