Forensic scientists or forensic experts deal with the legal aspects of human behavior. They are trained to collect evidentiary material which may or may not be visible to the common man. Technically speaking, these experts collect material from scenes of crime, accidents or incidents of suspected foul play, to either support or rule out any form of crime that may be committed.
Here are a few suggested points at how forensic experts collect evidence.
• Education: Forensic experts are trained to view crime scenes in distinct ways which are different from the untrained eyes. They study the psychologies of different types of people; habits, mannerisms, trade-marks, styles of doing things and even preferences. Many times killers or thieves are identified or caught by the way a crime is carried out based on the thought process of that suspect. These experts are also trained on how to conduct experiments on evidentiary material to find out convicting data.
• Forensic Nursing staff: In half the number of cases, forensic experts collect evidence from accident prone victims at hospitals through the Nursing Staff. The staff nurses are trained on how to collect information, how to record data and follow up with legal authorities based on hospital guidelines. This data is collected in what are known as medico-legal files which are unchangeable and binding in nature. During the course of treatment, a lot of data may be lost, and hence it is the duty of the nursing staff, especially those in the emergency rooms, to collect as much data as possible.
• Crime-scene material: In most of the cases, evidence is collected from crime scenes. It may be a watch or a a drop of blood, or something as simple as a strand of hair. But just a drop of blood or a strand of hair can provide enough data to size up a person through the process of DNA testing. Material things like watches, cigarette-butts, matchboxes, clothing, footwear, etc provide information about the gender and type of person, preferences, orientations and even mannerisms. Body fluids on sheets can support evidence in cases of sexual assaults and murder scenes.
• Fingerprints: Collecting fingerprints is one of the most noted exercises conducted by forensic experts. Fingerprints are a sure way to identify people related to the crime scene. They are also scientific in nature and are binding, in that, enough of data with a person's fingerprints is enough to raise a legal case.
• Handwriting: Though many people's handwriting may be similar or look almost identical, forensic handwriting experts are able to distinguish one from the other, either by the type of ink used, the pressure of the hand on the formation of certain letters or from the slight curves, slants or stiffness with specific letter formation.
• Time calculations: It is not uncommon for forensic experts to check the temperatures of a victim to calculate the time of murder. Body warmth is an indication of time or even food left around the scene of the crime can provide evidence or information about the time of the crime.
• Homicide weapons: A single bullet or the type of wound in a victim is indicative of certain information. For example, a bullet may be indicative of the type of weapon used, or even the range of gunshot power that it has to suggest the position of the suspect from the victim, angle of shot, etcetera. At times when additional distracting evidence may be falsely placed around the scene by the suspect, which can divert expert attention, homicide weapons can suggest the distances covered in the crime, such as a close-range gun shot or a far-away shot. Information about the weapon can also lead to specific identities or criteria when searching for or pinning down suspects.
• Experiments: Sometimes evidence is lost no sooner than it is there and a forensic expert will have to act quickly to either preserve or collect information. At times, materials at the scene of the crime may provide hardly any information, and only when experiments are done on these material will more evidentiary material come to light. For example, an ordinary watch may not provide information. But, skin samples or fine body hair found on the watch strap can indicate information about the suspect upon experiments and tests done on it.
While there are many ways forensic experts collect evidence, the above mentioned are but a suggested few. Forensic experts or forensic scientists are highly trained and are closely knit with the legal system to help provide justice to hapless victims. The evidence they collect goes a long way in creating norms, laws and a more strengthened judicial system.