Deriving important information from digital photographs and videos relies on the ability to authenticate such images as well as enhance and conduct analysis to extract meaningful evidence. In the United States, there are undergraduate degree programs with emphasis in digital forensics, computer forensics, and media forensics. There are also graduate degree and graduate certificate programs in these fields.
Digital forensic examiners also may have various types of certifications. A certified professional not only possesses technical competency but also adheres to a strong code of ethics. Digital forensic examiners are employed in both the public and private sector. Private practice consultants can be found in most major cities. Many large police organizations as well as most state and federal law enforcement agencies, generally employ digital forensic experts.
Many qualified practitioners are members of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences www. Audio analysis of a sound sample. Collectively, their interests extend across all of the engineering fields as well as the underlying sciences such as physics and chemistry. They are problem solvers and problem definers who are often brought into an investigation with no clear definition as to what they are going to do but with the expectation that they will do something useful.
For example, Caltech Physicist, Richard B. Feynman, was asked to address the Challenger disaster not because of his quantum field theory work that brought him the Nobel Prize but because he represented the epitome of a field known for its problem-solving genius. In broad terms, these individuals perform research and design services in addition to building, manufacturing, and maintaining structures and devices that sustain and improve our modern way of life.
They deal with mechanisms, heat, sound, electricity, fluids gases and liquids , the environment, weapons systems, transportation, the biosciences, food production, and communications. In short, just about everything you see around you every day and some things that you do not see such as pacemakers, groundwater, and artificial joints. Above all else, human health and safety are overriding concerns for the forensic engineer.
The forensic scientist or engineer applies the tools and techniques of science and engineering to resolve questions relating to civil, criminal, and regulatory issues. Forensic scientists and engineers typically investigate accidents, product failures, environmental contamination, and criminal acts.
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Incident investigations may involve bridge or building collapses, automobile collisions, air and rail accidents, explosions, shootings, and stabbings. Practitioners of forensic engineering sciences may be involved in helping to apprehend and convict criminals on the one hand or exonerating and protecting the innocent on the other. They may also provide support in lawsuits based on claims that negligent acts caused personal injury.
Other cases may use forensic engineers to correctly assign blame for environmental harm, to evaluate claims that product flaws resulted in injury to the user of the product, and to show whether patent rights have been infringed. Many requests for forensic engineering services involve criminal and civil suits in which the forensic scientist or engineer will be asked to render expert opinions regarding the results of examinations.
These opinions may receive further scrutiny in a deposition or during a trial. In most legal disputes involving science and engineering issues, each party will have their own experts who will evaluate the credibility of the proffered forensic analysis. Before becoming a forensic scientist or engineer, you must first become a scientist or an engineer. An individual specializing in any one of these disciplines should have a broad-based education that will provide a good understanding of all other disciplines.
The forensic engineer or scientist should become an expert at one or more component disciplines. Examples might involve becoming an expert in environmental data collection and analysis including use of the mass spectrometer and gas chromatograph. In still another example, the investigator of an accident involving military munitions should have become expert in non-destructive, non-invasive evaluation using advanced imaging techniques such as gamma radiography, ultrasound, and MRI scans in order to ascertain what went wrong.
Depending on the field chosen, an advanced degree, MS or PhD, may be recommended. Work experience in the chosen field is a plus. Other essential capabilities include writing and speaking skills. Knowledge and understanding of legal procedures and standards of proof are often important. Active participation in professional organizations and continuing education are highly recommended. The forensic engineer or scientist must be highly competent, ethical, credible, and should have extensive professional experience in the subject matter under consideration.
Inspecting a product for design defect is just one of the many applications called upon by the forensic engineer. Job opportunities for forensic engineering scientists track those for other types of forensic practitioners—crime labs at the federal, state, and local levels; law enforcement agencies; research laboratories; insurance companies, and small or large corporations.
An opportunity for private consulting practice exists for many forensic engineering scientists once they are well into their professional lives.
Far more than in any other sections of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Members and Fellows in the Engineering Sciences Section operate their own consulting firms that range in size from a single practitioner to multiple individual experts. The primary clients for these small consulting firms are attorneys with civil and criminal practices, corporations, states, municipalities, as well as prosecutors at all levels of government. Some engineers and scientists are choosing to pursue forensic engineering sciences as a first career, which adds a younger contingent to this growing community.
Nor is there an end in sight to the number of present or future specialties that may become forensic. The examples are many. The General Section was founded in and is the third largest section in the Academy. It is the home of established areas of forensic science not fitting into the more narrow definitions or membership requirements of the other sections, newly emerging forensic scientific specialties, or those forensic specialists whose numbers are not sufficient to support a separate section. The goal of every section of the Academy is to promote professionalism, integrity, competency, education, foster research, improve practice, and encourage collaboration.
Membership in the General Section provides opportunities for professional development, personal contacts, and recognition of achievements. Additionally, members can advance their scientific proficiencies by learning from and consulting with scientists with broader experiences and similar interests. Members of the General Section represent forensic specialties in the areas of laboratory investigation, field investigation, clinical work, education and research, and other emerging forensic science disciplines.
New areas of forensic study result from a combination of adaptation, unique problem solving, and advances in natural and social sciences. Our latest accepted discipline is Forensic veterinary sciences, concerned with the health and welfare of animals through the recovery, identification, and examination of material evidence of inhumane destruction, treatment, abuse, neglect, or illicit trade in animals or animal parts for legal purposes.
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Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to treat or to help veterinarians diagnose the illnesses and injuries of animals. One of our larger subgroups includes forensic nurses specializing in areas such as sexual assault examination, clinical forensic medicine, and death investigation. These specially trained nurses contribute to any manner of investigations involving human injury or illness.
Work experience requirements vary with educational levels and specific field of interest. Almost all agencies that support forensic science personnel provide opportunities for continuing in-service training and many offer additional advanced training. Student mentoring is an especially important component of education for disciplines such as bloodstain interpretation, medicolegal death investigations, and forensic artistry, for which specific college degree programs have yet to be developed.
Forensic crime scene investigators assess a mass grave site. Many of the forensic scientists within the General Section work for universities, police agencies state, city, and local agencies , federal agencies such as DEA, ATF, and FBI , and criminal investigation arms of the military forces and their support laboratories. Private companies and independent forensic specialists are consultants to either the prosecution or defense. Income is dependent on specialty and geographical area and is generally increasing for the well-trained forensic scientist. Career advancements are available in many agencies and are dependent on the discipline.
As crime continues to evolve with technology and society, forensic scientists will be challenged to respond by adapting established technologies and, where necessary, developing new ones. These emerging forensic science disciplines will continue to be of vital importance to the courts and society in general. Forensic radiologist interpreting x-rays for case preparation. Many of the forensic sciences — such as fingerprint analysis and document examination — originally developed from the need for lawyers to explain the significance of physical evidence to a case, often to identify a perpetrator of a crime.
All forensic science is evidence used by lawyers in presenting and explaining their cases in court. Rapid advances in scientific knowledge during the last century resulted in scrutiny by attorneys and courts of the validity of then-current scientific analytical techniques.
A forensic scientist will frequently be asked to provide testimony as an expert witness who has conducted a scientific analysis of the evidence in a legal proceeding.
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Consequently, forensic scientists must be aware of the process involved in being qualified as an expert and the evidence standards that will be applied to the scientific analysis performed by the forensic scientist. Expertise comes from education, training, or experience and can be based on the scientific method or on specialized training.
Counsel on both sides of a matter being tried in court, as well as the judge presiding over the trial, are lawyers. They are the main players in the drama of the courtroom. A lawyer who uses expert testimony in a criminal, civil, or other legal proceeding must know the laws that govern the admissibility of scientific evidence and be able to apply these laws when submitting or challenging scientific evidence in depositions and court proceedings.
The judge, also, must understand the issues concerning the validity and admissibility of scientific evidence and must ensure the legality of the entire process.
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Much depends on the knowledge, training, education, and experience of the forensic scientist whom a lawyer seeks to qualify as an expert witness since an expert witness, and only an expert witness, is permitted to testify to an opinion based on analyses performed by the expert. Although each deposition, hearing, or court appearance is a unique experience, forensic scientists testifying in a legal proceeding may reasonably expect questioning to cover at least a few key areas before the scientist is qualified as an expert by the judge.
Education in the field of specialized knowledge in which the witness claims to be proficient will be most relevant and may cover any and all formal education the witness has — or has not — completed. Cross-examination by opposing counsel is typically more challenging. There are limits to all scientific disciplines.
Experts well-versed in their discipline should be aware of those limits and be able to testify with ease about what can — and cannot — be known regarding a given piece of evidence. Members of the Jurisprudence Section must possess a law degree, have passed a bar examination, and be licensed members in good standing of the bar in one or more states.
Full-time law school students are eligible to join the section as student affiliates.
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Continuing education is essential for lawyers to stay current as forensic science advances and legal standards adapt to these advances. Judges are lawyers who have been appointed or elected to the bench. Lawyers working with forensic science issues may be employed in a variety of broad fields or specialties and by a broad range of employers and organizations. Some are employed by large private companies; still others teach in colleges and universities.
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