The field of forensic technology continues to grow significantly due to advances in the science and technical fields and increasing emphasis on using these new technologies to solve crime. Forensic technology include a wide range of sciences, including DNA testing, ballistics, fingerprinting, and toxicology. Forensic technologists work at crime scenes and laboratories and are called on to give testimony at court proceedings.
DNA Testing and Analysis
DNA testing and analysis, or typing, is a prime example of a major change in the technical field that has greatly impacted forensic technology over the past two decades. Since the mid-1980s, DNA testing has significantly increased the ability to solve previously open cases and locate and incarcerate guilty criminals, as well as free those individuals who have been wrongfully imprisoned.
Polygraph, or "lie detector" tests are becoming more sophisticated. People are given these tests by forensic technologists, or psychophysiologists, in order to determine whether or not their comments are truthful. The polygraph machine tracks changes in heart and respiration rate, amount of body sweat, and blood pressure fluctuations, due to the belief that the body undergoes changes when someone is being deceitful. Polygraph tests are only admissible in certain states and by judge rule.
Investigation and Lab Collaboration
The success of solving a crime depends on the highly efficient actions taken by both the forensic scientists in the lab and the police officers and investigators at the crime scene. If the slightest evidence is overlooked at the crime location, it can mean the criminal goes free. Similarly, overseeing the collection and analysis of forensic evidence from the crime scene must be handled with the maximum amount of precision. Therefore, the collaboration among the crime scene investigators and laboratory technicians is just as important as the sophisticated tools and technology used for forensic results.
Automated ID Systems
Computerized collections of information that are used nationwide and even internationally, such as the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and the National Integrated Ballistic Imaging Network have considerably enhanced the law enforcers' chances for finding criminals. These systems contain copies of hundreds of thousands of fingerprints, bullets and bullet casings. Before AFIS, fingerprint cards were stored in cabinets at police headquarters. It was impossible to search these cards to find the one that compared to those left at the crime scene. These fingerprint cards were filed based on specific characteristics, or on the Henry Classification System, so it was not necessary to search and compare every card. Even then, however, searching a section of a thousand or so cards was a huge responsibility.
Because of the critical information that forensic technologists collect, they are often called to testify in court cases. In many situations, the evidence can actually establish or discredit someone's guilt. The importance of forensic databases in investigations and law cases has increased tremendously over the past ten years, which has also led to a growing need for forensic technologists and consultants who have the ability to find and analyze data and write detailed reports.