What is Forensic Evidence and the “CSI Effect”?
Categories of Forensic Evidence and “CSI Effect”:
A criminal defender can be confronted with many different types of evidence when defending a case:
- Evidence from people: police report, incriminating statements, confession from the client, statements by victims, witnesses, etc.
- Physical evidence: material evidence such as a document, a gun, a strand of hair, deleted computer files, or even a visible injury, as well as the results of scientific tests or evaluations performed on that physical evidence.
It is the scientific type of physical evidence that we will focus on in this article. Science and technology can be helpful in determining the facts and, subsequently, the truth about what occurred in some criminal cases.
Forensic Evidence is:
Evidence admissible in court obtained by scientific methods such as ballistics, blood test, and DNA testing.
In forensics, scientists collect, preserve, and analyze evidence during the course of an investigation. Some forensic scientists work in the field collecting the evidence at the scene of the crime, while others work in the laboratory performing analysis on said evidence.
A Brief History of Forensic Evidence
Forensic Evidence was first documented in the 7th century, when China used fingerprints to identify some documents and sculptures. In 1247 A.D. a groundbreaking Chinese book, Xi Yuan Ji Lu (translated into English as the Washing Away of Wrongs), described the differences between the body of a person who died from natural cause as opposed to death by unnatural causes.
It’s the first record of applying medical knowledge as a legal tool to solve crimes. The book represented a significant advance in the field of forensic science, and offers advice that is still useful today.
Forensic Evidence and the “CSI Effect” in Court
The importance of forensic evidence in criminal court cannot be overstated. Forensic evidence is especially an important factor in cases that involve violent crimes like murder and mayhem, as well as completely nonviolent crimes such as drugs, fraud and cybercrime.
Testimonies and statements by various people, even the police, are largely subjective. They often are biased towards the side they are testifying on behalf of.
Forensic evidence is more objective, because it’s based off science. In cases that involve forensic evidence, a judge or jury is more likely to find favor with the side that presents the most compelling forensic argument. With that said, it is not entirely impossible to argue against the forensic evidence in court. There are numerous cases where forensic evidence was not accurate.
If you find yourself being charged with a crime, it’s critical to secure an attorney who is familiar with the ins-and-outs of forensic evidence.
There is a broad range of potential material which qualifies: semen, blood, skin, hair, fibers, fingerprints, stains, drugs, alcohol, paint, soil, glass, flammables, markings, weapons, tire tracks and foot prints.
A skillful attorney will know what questions to ask regarding that evidence:
How and when was it obtained? Is the test result accurate? Was it contaminated or compromised during handling? Does the evidence actually point to guilt, or is it being cherry-picked from a larger, less convincing piece of evidence? Is there any other evidence that can be obtained by the defense that contradicts the prosecution’s forensic evidence? Is there absence of key physical evidence?
The “CSI Effect”
In cases that go to trial, jurors are increasingly expect irrefutable forensic evidence, such as DNA and fingerprint analysis, to be present. If the prosecution lacks such scientific evidence, the jury likely won’t convict.
The reason for this trend can be attributed to television shows like “CSI” and “Criminal Minds”. In these shows the fictional investigators almost always prove their fictitious case using an elaborate scientific method involving forensics uncovered in the laboratory at some point in the script.
In reality this is simply not always the case, yet jurors expect it because television planted the seed in their minds. This is known as the “CSI Effect”.
Good for The Defense
In some cases, the “CSI Effect” is a dream come true for the criminal defense. Many times the prosecution has weak forensic evidence, or maybe even none at all. Most prosecutors agree that the “CSI Effect” has made their job more difficult. Defense lawyers can simply demand ‘Where’s the DNA test? Where’s the proof?’ to take advantage of what the jury expects.
Bad for The Defense
In other cases, the “CSI Effect” can spell disaster for defense attorneys, because weak or inaccurate forensic evidence presented by the prosecution is likely to be perceived as absolute and irrefutable proof of the crime, when in reality it is flawed evidence. The defense team will need to work extra hard to disprove said forensic evidence to have it thrown out, if at all.
As for forensic crime labs, the “CSI Effect” takes its toll in the form of an increasing workload. The jury is increasingly requesting forensic analysis, and evidence to be presented, and judges often honor their request, ordering crime labs to do more tests.
Are You in Need Proper Criminal Defense?
Criminal cases involving forensic evidence are very complex, and can be quite tricky. It requires a good criminal defense attorney well seasoned in cases involving forensics of all types. We cannot stress enough the importance of retaining a lawyer to fight your case ASAP.
Give us a call if you’ve or your loved one has been arrested in Los Angeles.
Need a Criminal Defense Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529
Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.