What does a Forensic Scientist do?
A Forensic Scientist is a highly trained professional who work in a crime laboratory to examine evidence from criminal investigations. Depending upon the agency that they work for, they may also be required to travel to crime scenes and collect evidence.
They must meticulously document their work and ensure their analysis are of the highest quality and reliability. The scientists work closely with the investigative agency to determine what pieces of evidence should be analyzed and the significance of each.
They also work closely with the prosecuting and defense attorneys to explain their results and answer questions. In some cases, the scientist will go to court and be sworn in as an expert witness. There they will be required to give an impartial testimony explaining their analysis and the results.
Are Forensic Scientist certified or licensed?
Unlike doctors or lawyers, forensic scientist are not licensed individually. Rather, the crime laboratories that they work for are accredited by various associations. This accreditation is based in part on the qualifications of the scientist, including that each achieve a certain level of education, training and continual quality assurance testing. The most prominent accrediting entity for forensic labs is the American Society of Crime Lab Directors (ASCLD) .
Individual scientist may choose to take a test offered by the American Board of Criminalistics to become certified in their field. This test is optional and not required by any governing agency. It is offered to demonstrate knowledge and skills on an individual basis in a general or specified discipline.
What types of evidence does a forensic scientist examine?
Evidence can come in all shapes, sizes and forms. Each discipline, however has their “usual” items that are collected in most routine cases. For example, forensic biologist work a lot of sexual assault cases. They therefore examine a lot of sexual assault evidence collection kits, which are collected from the victim at the hospital and contain blood, hair, saliva and swabs from various body orifices. Clothing from the victim is also frequently examined for the presence of body fluids or stains.
Drug chemists analyze substances thought to be illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Trace chemists analyze paint samples from hit and run crimes and air samples from suspected arson.
Firearms examiners handle a lot of guns, bullets and cartridges. Documents examiners analyze checks, ransom notes, legal documents and even copied and printed documents.
Most of the time forensic scientists do not be work directly with a deceased individual or with body parts. This is the job of the detective, crime scene investigator, coroner or forensic pathologists. Occasionally, however, the scientist may be in direct contact with the victim.