forensic science

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Forensics is a collective term for scientific and technical areas in which criminal activities are systematically investigated. The term comes from the Latin forensis " belonging to the forum , market place [place]", since court proceedings, investigations, pronouncements of judgments as well as the execution of sentences in ancient Rome were carried out publicly and mostly on the market place (forum).


Forensic investigations are commissioned by public prosecutors, courts and police departments. For almost every task, the so-called forensic experts have to write a court opinion.

In Germany, forensic forensic technology is usually located at its own institutes, integrated into the structures of the Federal Criminal Police Office or the state criminal police offices. Forensic medicine must be distinguished from this.

forensic science
Computer science and
Forensic medicine



Forensic chemistry


Physics  / electronics

Technical traces of form

Weapons and ammunition


Computer / disk forensics


monitoring (TKÜ)

radio cell evaluation


Operational case analysis


Handwriting analysis

Linguistics / voice analysis

  • phonetics
  • Determination of origin
  • Comparative analysis for personal identification

face recognition

Forensic medicine

Autopsy room at the Charité Berlin

Forensic traumatology is a branch of forensic medicine that deals with physical injuries.

Forensic osteology identifies people on the basis of their skeleton, forensic dentistry on the basis of the dental system, which is used in particular for victims of natural and traffic disasters as well as crime victims. The Thanatochemie includes the study of chemical and biochemical processes after death, the clinical chemistry in living.

The other branches of forensic science are the following lines of Forensic Science in focus:

Forensic genetics

Forensic genetics deals with those aspects of (criminally) legally relevant facts that can be investigated using the methods of molecular genetics. Often the aim is individualization. It should z. B. a biological trace at a crime scene - a blood spatter, a flake, a hair - can be clearly assigned to a person, that is, individualized. Or it should be one, z. B. by putrefaction visually unrecognizable corpse or, z. B. after a natural disaster, a body part can be assigned to a corpse. But the “classic” heredity theory is also used forensically when, often on behalf of a court, the biological descent relationship of two or more people is established, ie when it is to be determined whether z. For example, a man is really the father of a particular child, or a woman is genuinely maternal related to a particular person. The basis for the examinations mentioned is the creation of one or more DNA profiles .

In addition to the individualization, the contextualization of biological traces can also be of considerable importance, which allows the reconstruction of (parts of) the course of events based on the analysis of the trace image and its occurrence. For example, questions are often asked about the biological nature of a trace, i.e. whether a suspicious secretion trace is saliva, sperm, a mixture or none of them. These and many other questions about contextualization, such as state and time determinations, cannot be answered by means of DNA testing, but can be answered by analyzing RNA molecules in trace material; the investigation is compatible and can be carried out in parallel with the DNA analysis. This opens up the possibility of not only determining the type of trace, but also typing the DNA profile of the tracer, even with the smallest of crime scene traces without additional sample consumption.

For some time now, epigenetic analyzes have also been used in forensic genetics, primarily for the purposes of trace species identification, to determine the age of an individual and to differentiate between identical twins, and the possibility of using microbiome analysis to assign individuals, locations and objects is also available explored.

Forensic linguistics

Forensic linguistics examines written language for a criminological aspect (for example, when determining the author of a ransom note). The text of the suspected author (e.g. the blackmailer) is compared from a linguistic point of view with other texts by the same author (e.g. business correspondence). This comparison allows conclusions to be drawn about the identity of the suspect author. The more text that is available for comparison, the higher the probability that the identity will be established. The "compatibility" of the text types to be compared is also helpful.

Forensic examinations of manuscripts to identify the author or to prove falsified signatures are carried out by comparison of the handwriting .

Forensic phonetics

Forensic phonetics deals with spoken language (such as a blackmail call). She applies phonetic knowledge to the investigation of speaker-typical voice and speech characteristics of an offender.

Forensic toxicology

In the field of forensic toxicology, which involves the detection of poisons and drugs, the tasks overlap with the tasks of forensic medicine.

Forensic entomology

The forensic entomology tried because of the corpses succession by insects references to the post-mortem interval , the cause of death to be determined and circumstances of his death. Even with living organisms, food and buildings, insects can offer conclusions about certain circumstances.

Forensic psychiatry and psychology

Forensic psychiatry deals with the culpability and the assessment of the degree of danger of criminals as well as their treatment. Forensic psychiatry has meanwhile become a focus area that can be acquired by specialists in psychiatry. It includes other branches of assessment, such as social law, and treatment in the penal system .

The Forensic Psychology is a possible multi-annual training for psychologists . Like forensic psychiatry, it supports the assessment of the reduced culpability or incompetence of the accused and those of the dangerousness of criminals. In addition, she supports assessments of the credibility of witnesses and, above all, assessments in family law, especially in decisions on custody . But it also deals with prevention and technical information for non-psychological specialists (e.g. public prosecutors, judges, social workers). For all areas, forensic psychology is more involved in research than psychiatry, whereby the focus is naturally on psychological issues (such as systematic distortions in judicial decision-making processes, errors in perception in the identification of suspects by witnesses and the like). Forensic psychology primarily develops and publishes the results of basic research in legal psychology.

Forensic ballistics

Forensic ballistics deals with the investigation of offenses that are committed with firearms. The projectiles are compared (for example with a comparison microscope ) and projectile effects are assessed. Using the Comparative Bullet Lead Analysis , an attempt is made to assign bullets to a specific production batch.

Technical traces of form and fingerprints

In the area of technical shape traces , all types of prints are examined, such as a shoe trace or the profile of a shoe sole. Forensic dactyloscopy evaluates fingerprints.

Forensic age diagnostics

Forensic age diagnostics tries to narrow down the assumed age of people using scientific methods. Areas of application are the age determination of unknown corpses as well as corpse and skeleton parts in order to facilitate the identification of unknown dead from crimes but also from accidents and disasters. Examinations are carried out on living people in order to make diagnoses about the probable existence of certain age limits in juvenile criminal proceedings and in child welfare, but also about reaching the age limit for retirement.

Economic forensics

The field of business forensics includes the expert investigation of business and operational processes related to white-collar crime. Investigations are carried out on the one hand at the accounting level (forensic accounting or forensic auditing), on the other hand through technical in-depth examinations , which require detailed knowledge of experts about the respective company areas and the processes and processes there.

As part of the business forensic activity, surveys are carried out and there is often a comprehensive review of secured physical and increasingly digital documents, which open up corresponding possibilities for conclusions. In the area of ​​digital data, so-called eDiscovery solutions are used to carry out the screening activity .

Computer forensics

IT forensics uses software to determine general criminal acts and specifically to uncover computer crime or crime in the mobile phone sector.

Building forensics (optical)

Mainly shaped by Prof. Dr. Andreas Rapp , who has been investigating this type of construction defect investigation at Leibnitz University Hannover since 2014/2015. These are methods mainly for building experts and building surveyors to use (criminal) forensic equipment to investigate construction defects, e.g. B. microbial infestation, contamination, discoloration, leaks, mixing errors, material assignments, etc. Crime scene lamps with defined wavelength ranges, special glasses and forensic cameras with appropriate wavelength filters are mainly used.

Purpose of analyzing various endogenous materials

material Analysis on
blood BAK , drugs / medication, DNA characteristics
saliva DNA characteristics (mostly comparison material)
urine Drugs / medication
Hair (mostly scalp hair, rarely pubic hair ) Drugs / medication (retrospective analysis)
Smears ( vagina , anus , mouth , penis , skin ) Sperm, saliva content, DNA characteristics


Forensics in today's sense goes back to the 19th century. In this century, scientific knowledge found increasing practical application. At the same time, the idea that a crime scene can contain a range of valuable information that helps to clarify the case prevailed. However, individual forensic practices are much older.


In antiquity standardized forensic practices were largely unknown. Investigations into criminal cases and trials have often relied on torture- forced confessions and testimony from witnesses. However, individual ancient sources report techniques that anticipated forensic methods. According to Vitruvius , Archimedes was supposed to check the gold content of a crown consecrated to the gods by the ruler Hieron II without damaging it. The king suspected the goldsmith of having betrayed him. To solve the given problem, he once dipped the crown and then a gold bar (and a silver bar) that weighed just as much as the crown into a full water container and measured the amount of overflowing water. The crown displaced more water than the gold bar. This proved that the crown had a lower specific weight and was therefore not entirely made of gold.

Names of the bones of man in Song Ci: 'Collected records for the redemption of injustices' (Sòng Cí: Xǐ-yuān lù jí-zhèng , printed edition from 1843)

Records for the redemption of injustice

The world's first work on forensic medicine with the title Records for the Elimination of Injustice ( Chinese  洗冤录  /  洗冤錄 , Pinyin Xǐ yuān lù , W.-G. Hsi Yüan Lu ) was written by the Chinese doctor Song Ci in 1247. With this work, the author intended for official coroners to prevent the convictions of innocent people that he has repeatedly observed. In this work, Song Ci takes up historical case studies that he links with his own experiences. He demands, among other things, that the investigating officer should not leave wounded or killed people to others, but should examine them himself - in the case of corpses as quickly as possible, in order to prevent changes due to rotting or manipulation by third parties.

According to Val McDermid , Song Ci also describes the first documented case of forensic entomology in Notes for the Eradication of Injustice . The victim was found stabbed on the side of the road. After checking the cutting marks of various blades on a cow carcass, the coroner came to the conclusion that the murder weapon must be a sickle . He ordered all seventy adult men in the area to line up with their respective sickles at their feet. None of the sickles showed any traces of blood, but a sickle owned by a moneylender attracted flies. He confessed when the coroner accused him of the offense.

From the 16th century to the Enlightenment

In Europe, medical professionals began to collect information about the causes of death from the 16th century. Ambroise Paré , a French surgeon, systematically examined the effects of violent death on organs of the body, noted what could indicate death from lightning, drowning, suffocation, poison, or stroke, and showed how to distinguish whether a wound was living or living was taught to people who have already died. With the Enlightenment in the 18th century, a way of thinking that was committed to rationality gradually took hold. Investigations into criminal cases have increasingly been based on evidence, while the use of torture to obtain confessions has been increasingly less admissible in the courts and deaths have been less associated with witchcraft and other occult causes . The murder of Edward Culshaw in 1794 is considered one of the first cases to be resolved solely on the basis of evidence. Culshaw died of a gunshot in the head. At that time, pistols were muzzleloaders , in which the bullet and powder were held in the barrel by twisted paper. When the surgeon examined the body of Culshaw, he found this paper in the gunshot wound - it turned out to be the torn corner of a leaflet. The relevant leaflet with the missing corner was found on the suspect John Toms and Toms was convicted as a murderer on this basis.

In the 18th century, the police began to become more professional. The so-called Bow Street Runners , London's first professional police force, were founded in 1742 by the London magistrate Henry Fielding , who is now best known as a novelist.

19th century

Marsh's sample for the detection of poison and first ballistic evidence

Setup for the so-called Marsh sample , with which, among other things, arsenic can be detected

For many centuries, poison was one of the preferred methods of murder because there was a lack of adequate evidence of poisoning. In 1836 the British chemist James Marsh developed a reliable test for arsenic poisoning. Marsh had already been able to prove the use of arsenic in a murder trial in 1832 - but by the time he tried to present the evidence to the court, the sample had already decomposed to such an extent that the accused was acquitted. For Marsh this was the reason to further refine his evidence based on the work of the German-Swedish pharmacist Carl Wilhelm Scheele .

Almost at the same time as Marsh was working, Henry Goddard, a member of the London Bow Street Runners, cleared up a case of ballistic evidence for the first time. Joseph Randall, butler at a Mrs. Maxwell's house in Southampton , claimed that he had successfully prevented a break-in and that the intruder shot him, among other things. However, based on the traces of the bullet found, Ballard was able to prove that the bullet in question came from Randall's weapon. When confronted with this allegation, Randall confessed that he had fabricated the break-in in the hope of a reward from his employer.

Fingerprint process

The first finger and hand prints taken by Herschel from the years 1859/60

The fingerprint process is the oldest of all biometric processes. Sir William James Herschel (1833-1917), British colonial administrator in Bengal, India, was confronted with the fact that after the bloody suppression of the Indian uprising of 1857, many Indians put up passive resistance by failing to keep contracts or paying taxes. Herschel came up with the idea of ​​taking handprints and fingerprints from his contractual partners in addition to signing a contract in order to underline the binding effect of a contract. From 1860, Herschel also registered payees in this way in order to prevent identity fraud. He was able to effectively prevent pension fraud through multiple payments in the British colonial army. Despite his success in Bengal, he did not succeed in enforcing this system beyond India. Herschel also recorded newly admitted offenders in this way in order to prevent them from paying someone else to serve the sentence. It is Herschel's credit for being the first to have a collection with which he was able to show that fingerprints do not change over time and can be used to identify people. Independently of Herschel, the Scotsman Henry Faulds, who lives in Japan, came to similar conclusions after thorough examinations of the human skin ridges. Faulds noticed that this was how Japanese potters marked their work. In 1880, he proposed using fingerprints at the crime scene to check criminals and dactyloscoping all ten fingers to take fingerprints. However, his efforts were unsuccessful. It was reserved for the Englishman Francis Galton (1822-1911) to develop the classification system of dactyloscopy, which is still mainly used today, and which paved the way for practical use as a means of identification by police authorities.

In 1891 Ivan Vučetić succeeded in putting Galton's principles into practice in La Plata (Argentina) . Thanks to this system, known as dactyloscopy , the Argentine Police Department was the first to use fingerprints to solve a murder. In June 1892, four-year-old Teresa Rojas and her six-year-old brother Ponciano were found dead in a village near Buenos Aires . Her mother Francisca Rojas, who had cuts on her neck, accused her neighbor Pedro Velázquez of breaking into her home, murdering and injuring the children. Velázquez, on the other hand, claimed to be innocent under torture. The investigating police inspector found a bloody fingerprint at the scene, which, as expected, did not come from Velázquez, but from Francisca Rojas. Faced with the evidence, the mother admitted to murdering her children who stood in the way of her marriage to her significant other. Argentina was the first country to systematically take fingerprints. Edward Henry , a senior police officer in British India, developed the so-called "Henry system" in the late 19th century together with two Indian assistants to classify fingerprints. This coding, so to speak the hand line alphabet, only enables experts to compare individual fingerprints and was used throughout British India from 1897. In 1901 Henry was recalled to Great Britain to head the Criminal Investigation Department at Scotland Yard and immediately introduced this classification system.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Forensics  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Forensic science  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Single receipts

  1. C. Courts, B. Madea: Ribonucleic acid . In: Forensic Medicine . tape 22 , no. 2 , April 1, 2012, ISSN  0937-9819 , p. 135–144 , doi : 10.1007 / s00194-011-0796-3 ( [accessed October 26, 2017]).
  2. Farzeen Kader, Meenu Ghai: DNA methylation and application in forensic sciences . In: Forensic Science International . tape 249 , April 2015, p. 255–265 , doi : 10.1016 / j.forsciint.2015.01.037 ( [accessed October 26, 2017]).
  3. Athina Vidaki, David Ballard, Anastasia Aliferi, Thomas H. Miller, Leon P. Barron: DNA methylation-based forensic age prediction using artificial neural networks and next generation sequencing . In: Forensic Science International: Genetics . tape May 28 , 2017, p. 225–236 , doi : 10.1016 / j.fsigen.2017.02.009 .
  4. Athina Vidaki, Celia Díez López, Elena Carnero-Montoro, Arwin Ralf, Kirsten Ward: Epigenetic discrimination of identical twins from blood under the forensic scenario . In: Forensic Science International: Genetics . tape 31 , November 2017, p. 67–80 , doi : 10.1016 / j.fsigen.2017.07.014 .
  5. Jarrad T. Hampton-Marcell, Jose V. Lopez, Jack A. Gilbert: The human microbiome: an emerging tool in forensics . In: Microbial Biotechnology . tape 10 , no. 2 , March 1, 2017, ISSN  1751-7915 , p. 228-230 , doi : 10.1111 / 1751-7915.12699 .
  6. For the entire paragraph: Interview with the forensic linguist Isabelle Thormann: Linguist in the service of Justitia. In: NJW-aktuell. Issue 26/2015, p. 12.
  7. ^ Berthold Mueller: Forensic medicine . Springer-Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-662-27217-6 , pp. 141 ff.
  8. Andreas Olze: Forensic-odontological age diagnosis in the living and dead . Dissertation. 2005.
  9. Forensic age diagnostics in adolescents and young adults . In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt. Issue 18, 2004.
  10. Working group for forensic age diagnostics: Recommendations for age diagnostics in the living in the pension procedure .
  11. Malte Buhse: Economic forensics : On the hunt. In: time online . March 27, 2013.
  12. a b Georg H. Jeitler : Forensic investigations: Problems and opportunities through digital working environments. In: Compliance Practice. (2), 2017, pp. 32–35, LexisNexis Verlag ARD Orac, Vienna 2017.
  13. : Interview on the activity as an economic forensic
  14. ^ Val McDermid: Forensics - The Anatomy of Crime. 2014, introduction.
  15. Elizabeth D. Schafer: Forensic Science . Ed .: Ayn Embar-seddon, Allan D. Pass. Salem Press , 2008, ISBN 978-1-58765-423-7 , Ancient science and forensics, pp. 40 .
  16. ^ IX De Architectura, Foreword, Paragraph 9–12, German translation by Ivo Schneider Archimedes , Culture and Technology, 1979, (pdf)
  17. ^ Val McDermid: Forensics - The Anatomy of Crime. 2014, p. 43.
  18. ^ Val McDermid: Forensics - The Anatomy of Crime. 2014, p. 66.
  19. ^ Val McDermid: Forensics - The Anatomy of Crime. 2014, introduction.
  20. ^ Hugh McMuigan: An Introduction to Chemical Pharmacology . P. Blakiston's Son & Co., Philadelphia 1921, p. 396-397 ( [accessed December 16, 2007]).
  21. ^ Val McDermid: Forensics - The Anatomy of Crime. 2014, introduction.
  22. ^ Val McDermid: Forensics - The Anatomy of Crime. 2014, p. 10.
  23. ^ Val McDermid: Forensics - The Anatomy of Crime. 2014, p. 118.
  24. ^ Val McDermid: Forensics - The Anatomy of Crime. 2014, p. 119.
  25. ^ Val McDermid: Forensics - The Anatomy of Crime. 2014, p. 120.
  26. ^ Val McDermid: Forensics - The Anatomy of Crime. 2014, p. 120.