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Criminal procedure

forensic science

Forensic science is an important part of the criminal justice system, in both state and federal courts. Forensic scientists examine and analyze evidence from crime scenes and other relevant locations to develop objective findings that may assist in the investigation and prosecution of criminals, or clear an innocent person from suspicion.

Common forensic science laboratory disciplines include (1) forensic molecular biology (DNA); (2) forensic chemistry; (3) trace evidence examination (hairs, fibers, paints, polymers, glass, soil, etc.); (4) latent fingerprint examination; (5) firearms and toolmarks examination; (6) handwriting analysis; (7) fire and explosives examinations; (8) forensic toxicology; and (9) digital evidence.

Practitioners of these forensic science disciplines are usually found in medical examiner or coroner’s offices, universities, and private practices. And the United States Department of Justice maintains forensic laboratories at (1) the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); (2) the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

In Texas, forensic science is a critical component of the criminal justice system, utilized by both state and federal courts. The state adheres to regulations and standards to ensure the reliability and validity of forensic evidence. Texas has its own forensic science commission, the Texas Forensic Science Commission (TFSC), which oversees the accreditation of crime laboratories that conduct forensic analyses, investigates complaints about forensic practices, and recommends best practices. The TFSC ensures that forensic practitioners are properly trained and that laboratories follow strict protocols. Forensic disciplines such as DNA analysis, forensic chemistry, trace evidence, latent fingerprints, firearms and toolmarks, handwriting, fire and explosives, toxicology, and digital evidence are all integral to the investigative process. These services are provided by professionals in various settings, including medical examiner offices, universities, and private practices. At the federal level, agencies like the ATF, DEA, and FBI maintain specialized forensic laboratories that support investigations nationwide. Texas law enforcement agencies often collaborate with these federal entities to enhance the scientific analysis of evidence in criminal cases.

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