Criminal Justice

Posted on: 10th May 2023


Conduct some research and produce an essay response between 750-1,000 words that answers the questions below. Make sure to support your answers with information from the textbook and/or outside sources.

1. Identify and discuss the various roles of physical evidence in criminal investigations.

2. Provide an example of a type of physical evidence that could fulfill each role.

3. What is the most common function of physical evidence?

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Criminal Justice

Question 1

Forensic evidence is related to criminal acts. This type of evidence includes blood, fingerprints, fibers, and tools used in criminal activities. Sometimes forensic evidence is also called scientific evidence because it must be scientifically evaluated to be useful (van den Eeden et al., 2016). There are many types of evidence found at crime scenes. For example, fingerprints, blood and body fluids, and more. Special DNA analysis and laboratory evidence processes are used to examine this evidence.

The evidence that is obtained during a criminal investigation can serve several purposes. For example, it can help investigators identify the crime, the extent of the crime, and who was involved. Tangible evidence can also help connect victims with the crime scene, offenders with the crime scene, and instruments with the crime scene. Most of the evidence sent to be processed is used to identify suspects. It is worth noting that physical evidence cannot identify someone who is not well known. Physical evidence usually helps establish guilt after the suspect has been identified. For example, fingerprints can be used to identify someone.

Another example of physical evidence is when the police print someone’s DNA. This is an important technique used in the criminal justice system to compare DNA from human cells. This helps to make sure that at least two samples are the same. Usually, DNA analysis is only done if a suspect has been found another way and a comparison of evidence has been made. The technology used to compare and match DNA sequences is getting better all the time. This means that the value of investigations will increase as more and more evidence is collected.

Question 2

Some physical evidence, such as guns, is easy to identify. So detectives have to be careful not to mess it up by leaving fingerprints on it. For example, they have to be careful with blood samples. Detectives usually dress in protective gear to avoid compromising evidence at the scene. Different approaches must be used (Fish et al., 2015). According to Mistek et al. (2018), if you dust your home with specific chemicals, you may be able to find fingerprints or shoe prints that are normally undetectable. If someone touches the physical evidence, it will be documented.

Physical evidence must not be tainted. This means that it is not changed or damaged by the people handling it. Depending on the evidence, different packaging strategies are used to protect it (Fish et al., 2015). Impression evidence cannot be collected like a hair or a bullet. It is very important to take care of the evidence when collecting it. Rainwater can weaken or even obliterate impression evidence; a tire track can fade or even be destroyed. Sometimes, this evidence is collected in the form of photographs. When collecting physical evidence, it is important to document everything you are doing. If fingerprints are taken, they need to be presented in a report with details about where they were found.

When evidence needs to be shown in court, the chain of custody must be established. This means that everyone who touched the evidence from when it was collected until it was shown in court had to sign for it. As a result, the court knows who had custody of it at each point along the way (Fish et al., 2015). If you take precautions, you can avoid cross disruption of evidence. If someone goes to the crime scene and then investigates who did it, they might be able to spread evidence to the suspect. This could happen if they use something like textile fiber.

Question 3

Physical evidence is important in the criminal justice system because it can prove that a criminal act has been committed. This type of evidence is known as corpus delictu evidence. Investigators can use this to connect the crime scene, the criminal, and the tools used to commit the crime. Physical evidence can also help identify who was involved in the crime and find DNA evidence. One of the most common functions of physical evidence in the criminal justice system is determining if a criminal act occurred (Fish et al., 2015). This means that without physical evidence at the crime scene, it will be very hard for the investigators to figure out if a criminal act occurred. So when there is physical evidence at a crime scene, it is important to follow the guidelines to make sure that the evidence is preserved (Komarinski, 2017). You can achieve this by understanding the resources, as well as the policies, that are necessary to make a good decision. Physical evidence is important in criminal justice because it can be used to prove that a crime took place, which makes it easier for cops and the courts to figure out who committed the crime (Komarinski, 2017). This means that physical evidence can make or break a case. If there isn’t enough physical evidence at the scene, the investigators might not prove that a crime took place. When physical evidence is collected properly, it can determine who committed the crime. This means that if there are fingerprints at the scene, they might match someone in the database (Komarinski, 2017).



Fish, J., Miller, L., Braswell, M., & Wallace Jr, E. (2015). Crime scene investigation. Routledge.

Komarinski, P. D. (2017). Automated fingerprint identification systems (pp. 317-326). CRC Press.

Mistek, E., Fikiet, M. A., Khandasammy, S. R., & Lednev, I. K. (2018). Toward locard’s exchange principle: recent developments in forensic trace evidence analysis. Analytical chemistry91(1), 637-654.

van den Eeden, C. A., de Poot, C. J., & Van Koppen, P. J. (2016). Forensic expectations: Investigating a crime scene with prior information. Science & justice56(6), 475-481.

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