Role of Forensic Experts in Criminal Investigation
This article discusses at length the relevance of forensic science and its role in criminal investigations.
The article 'Role of Forensic Experts in Criminal Investigations' discusses at length the relevance of forensic science and its role in criminal investigations. It also elaborates on the role of forensic experts/scientists, who assist in bringing this field of knowledge to use. The juxtaposition of science and law is forensic study whereby a multi-disciplinary approach is utilized for guaranteeing greater degrees of justice dispensation. The same is discussed in the article.
Expert witnesses add weight to the investigative processes in criminal cases. This assists in ascertaining whether the accusations levied on the accused are true or not, and if yes then to what extent. Credibility can thus be gained by way of expert witnesses.
Evidence Act recognizes the importance that this holds and thereby the same has been legislated. Section 45 of the Evidence Act mentions opinions that are given by persons referred to as experts. People who have better knowledge of the subject which involves the matter at hand are known to be experts in that particular domain.
Since they have better knowledge of the said matter, they are able to provide a more reasoned definition or opinion on the question that is put before the court. While it is true that their opinion is based on more knowledge, the judged are under no compulsion to mandatorily adhere to the opinion that is thus provided by the experts.
Understanding Forensic Science
The term ‘forensic’ has its origin in the Latin language. It has derived from the word ‘forensis’ which means argumentative, to the public forum, belonging to debate. When this definition is refined, in a modern sense it means, a matter which belongs to the court of law for its proper ascertainment. Forensic science is used all around the world for the purpose of resolving disputes both civil and criminal. Thus, forensic science helps in the proper implementation of criminal laws justly.
Forensic science which is studied and implemented by forensic scientists, is involved in cases/ investigations in circumstances wherein a proper scientific analysis is required for adjudging the case at hand.
Forensic science adopts a highly integrated approach whereby it does not stick to any one particular branch of science but is rather a culmination of various types of sciences that are put to use for the proper implementation of legal principles. Earlier, the techniques borrowed in this field were separate and belonged to different areas but then gradually due to intensification of its need and requirement, this branch of science developed in itself. This is when it came to be known as ‘forensic science’. Various techniques of evidence collection for instance by way of fingerprints, track marks, documentary examination with regards to handwriting identification, forensic ballistics etc. all come under forensic science and help in determining the degree of guilt of an accused.
The two-fold nature of Forensic Science
The structure of Forensic science is dependent on two major pillars which define its scope and functionality. They are:
1. Multi-disciplinary approach- This enunciates the nature of forensic science which is basically a juxtaposition of scientific principles with legal principles in order to properly implement the laws and provide justice. Forensic science laboratories must be comprehensive and should have all the relevant equipment that is thereby required.
2. Multi-professional requirement- While the role of the forensic scientist is one of the most important in forensic science (as we shall discuss further), it is important to understand that the success of this arena is also dependent on other professionals involved in the process. Forensic scientists are dependent on the investigating officer, the judge and the counsel for proper implementation of the results that have thereby been attained by way of forensic examination. The investigating officer must be efficient in collecting evidence so that as and when required the same can be done and forwarded to the forensic scientist or expert for further examination.
Understanding Forensic Experts and Their Role in Criminal Investigations
First of all, it is imperative to note that forensic experts is a legal terminology that is granted to forensic scientists. Thereby, both the terms can be used interchangeably. So, forensic scientists are a type of scientists who are capable of conducting a forensic examination and thereby understanding and communicating the results to the judges. Thus, a scientist becomes a forensic scientist by assisting in the application of forensic evidence in the case at hand. Let us understand how a forensic scientist works:
- A forensic scientist is provided with relevant material which might comprise item(s) or documents. This material is provided with the object of conduct of examination by him/her.
- However, there are also circumstances where forensic scientists are called on-site in order to extract evidence from the crime scene.
- Post collection of forensic evidence either by delivery or themselves from the site, the forensic scientist conducts the examination which might comprise a number of tests and analyses.
- The most appropriate form of examination is conducted in order to make the result closest to accurate. Thus, it is the forensic scientist’s responsibility to make use of the most efficient and effective technique for conducting the said forensic examination.
- The process along with the result must be documented so that it can be presented in the court of law with relevant, adequate and required degree of authenticity.
- The judges are then free to question the veracity of the ascertained result which might include questions relating to what steps were used for coming to the result.
It is imperative to note that forensic scientists are made to testify in court. This is so because they are involved in preparing the report which they must be able to present in the court of law. Thus, this projects the necessity for forensic scientists to testify in a court of law. However, it is also to be noted that their testimony is important in the court of law not merely for the results that are attained from their forensic examination but rather, the same is also important for giving their reasoned opinions that they have henceforth reached. The same can be understood with the help of the following illustration:
A forensic scientist is capable of testifying about the results of a drug test regarding whether a substance as tested is a specific drug like cocaine or heroine and on that result, he/she is permitted to give an opinion based on the observed/ factual results of the said chemical test of the substance as produced before the court of law.
Forensic science is crucial in the collection and examination of forensic evidence and the same can be done only with the help of forensic experts. This knowledge of science is important in investigative processes as it assists in ascertaining the guilt of the accused. Forensic experts thus play a crucial role in this aspect as they are capable of assisting in criminal investigations which would further help in disposing of the case at hand by punishing the guilty. Ultimately, this would lead to quicker, more efficient and more effective justice administration.
 Gowsia Farooq Khan & Sheeba Ahad, Role of Forensic Science in Criminal Investigation: Admissibility in Indian Legal System and Future Perspective, Available Here
 What is Forensic Science, Available Here
 Importance of Expert Witnesses in Criminal Cases, Available Here
 Anjali Dhingra, Expert witnesses under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Available Here