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  • When a nurse encounters a person who was involved in violence and crime, the nurse may also unknowingly encounter evidence that can be used by law enforcement to investigate the crime.

  • An understanding of the processes regarding collection and analysis of evidence can be incorporated into the nurses’ assessment practices and help to avoid contamination and degradation of samples.

  • Care provided to individuals who experienced violence is enhanced by knowledge of the legal and ethical requirements of handling evidence.


The term forensic science can mean many different things to different people. With the influence of such TV programs as CSI, Forensic Files, and Law and Order, the public’s perception of what forensic science is can be debated. Those who work in the field spend much of their time educating others on what the field actually entails and just how far this specialty has come since its development many years ago. The field of forensic science has advanced almost two-fold since its inception and continues to evolve. Without forensic science technology, the criminal justice system would be at a loss in how the legal process is conducted and carried out (Shipley & Arrigo, 2012).

The word forensic comes from the Latin word forensis. A relevant, contemporary definition of forensic is: relating to or dealing with the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems (forensic, n.d.). Any science used for the purposes of the law is considered a forensic science. Forensic science, sometimes referred to as criminalistics, applies the knowledge of science to the definition and enforcement of laws. Criminalistics is a branch of forensic science that is involved in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of physical evidence produced by criminal activity.

Forensic science embraces all branches of science and applies scientific techniques to the purpose of law. Originally all the techniques were borrowed from various scientific disciplines such as chemistry, medicine, biology, and photography. However, over the past several years, it has developed its own branches, which are more or less exclusive domains of forensic science. More recently, significant advances have been made in serology, voice analysis, odor analysis, and in studies relating to nose prints and ear patterns (Saferstein, 2013). Many different disciplines fall under the umbrella of forensic science.

The traditional forensic science disciplines are:

  • Toxicology: The study of alcohol and drugs.

  • Serology: Study of blood and other biological fluids.

  • Questioned document examination: Examination of documents, handwriting comparison, study of inks, typewriter imprints, counterfeiting, etc.

  • Forensic chemistry: The application of facts related to findings in chemistry to issues of civil and criminal law.

  • Firearms identification and ballistics: Study of marks and striations on bullets.

  • Hair and fiber analysis: Types of trace evidence that can be analyzed for classification as to origin of the hair or the fiber, or for contents such ...

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