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What Is Forensic Identification?

By Christina Edwards
Updated May 16, 2024
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Forensic identification is a method of using physical forensic evidence to identify something. It can be used to identify either people or inanimate objects. Fingerprints and DNA are the most common types of forensic evidence used to identify people. Inanimate objects can be identified by a number of methods.

Fingerprints are one of the most common forensic identification methods. Fingerprints are the lines and markings on the pads of each finger and thumb. These form on a fetus before birth, and every individual's fingerprints are unique. Identical twins, although identical in every other way, also have different fingerprints, though these tend to be remarkably similar.

If fingerprints are found at a crime scene, this can help investigators narrow down a list of suspects. For example, if only one set of fingerprints were found on a gun at the scene of a murder, investigators can assume that these fingerprints belong to the murderer. Using this type of forensic investigation, they can attempt to match the fingerprints to a suspect. Sometimes, unknown fingerprints ay even be able to be matched to a suspect using an extensive database of known offenders.

DNA testing is another common method of forensic identification. Almost every individual has unique DNA strands. Twins, however, are an exception. They have identical DNA, since they were born from the same fertilized egg.

This type of forensic identification can also be used in a number of ways. For example, if sperm was found in a rape victim following an attack, it is reasonable to assume that the DNA extracted from the sperm will match the attacker. On the other hand, DNA can also help exonerate a suspect if his DNA does not match that of the sperm.

Fingerprints and DNA can also be used in the forensic identification of a deceased individual. If an unknown victim has been fingerprinted because of his job or criminal actions, these fingerprints can often be found in a fingerprint database. These can be compared to fingerprints of an unknown dead person for identification.

Since every person has different teeth and bite marks, dental records may also help identify an unknown victim. Sometimes, even handwriting can be used to identify people. Sophisticated software can also analyze a person's voice and picture for identification purposes.

People aren't the only thing that can be identified using forensic evidence. Trace evidence at a crime scene can also help law enforcement officials identify certain inanimate objects. Firearms and certain types of fabrics, for instance, can also be identified. Also, different types of copiers and typewriters, along with shoes and tires, can often be identified as well.

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