Forensics Standards

Standards for forensic investigations guide and provide the accepted standard practice for a variety of procedures, ranging from the generic and widely applicable, such as the standard guide for physical evidence labeling and related documentation, to nuanced and specific guides, such as the microcrystal testing of cocaine. Given the focus on testing, ASTM International, founded as the American Society for Testing and Materials, is the standards developing organization behind a great majority of forensics standards. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and industry specific organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) also developed many standards, doing their part to round out the collection of standard procedures. These standards guide the forensic field and provide uniformity and reliability in the collection, analysis, storage, and retrieval of forensic evidence.

General Forensic Standards

General forensic standards apply across the various fields of inquiry that together comprise forensics and come to work together in forensic investigations. With a standard terminology relating to forensic science, this standardized approach eases reliable communication between separate investigators and facilities. From there, these general forensic standards serve as a foundation upon which more specific standards build on, simultaneously reducing redundancy and freeing subsequent standards to focus solely on their particular topic.

Forensic Document Analysis Standards

Standards for forensic document analysis delve into the myriad of duties carried out by forensic document examiners, making clear the procedures, terminology, and limitations of the field. Contrary to popular opinion, forensic document examiners do not study handwriting to determine psychological characteristics of the author, but instead analyze the material used to make the document, what material was used to mark the document, what tools and techniques were used in the process, and what has happened to the document since its creation. In essence, forensic document analysis reveals the life story of a document. With standards for the analysis, preservation, and matching of documents that have been altered, cut, torn, perforated, soaked by liquids, or even charred, forensic document analysis covers a broad spectrum of forensic procedures.

Forensic Fire Debris Investigation Standards

Standards for the forensic investigation of fire debris describe the procedures involved in the analysis of fire debris samples, vapors, and residues, as well as the terminology and definitions underlying those procedures. Such standardization promotes consistency both within a single laboratory, and across different facilities, lending credibility to the results that are produced. Forensic fire debris investigation standards include the standard practices for the separation, concentration, sampling, and preservation of evidence from fire debris samples. Additionally, standards for reaction-to-fire tests are included, serving as a different perspective on the same problems that offers fresh insights.

Forensic Fiber Analysis Standards

Standards for forensic fiber analysis address a staple component of forensic inquiry, the investigation of fibers, fabrics, textiles, cordage, everything contained within them, and everything constructed out of them. Given the enormous range of variability within the field of potential fibers that have to be identified, as well as their combinations and the array of forensically interesting material that might be attached, the widespread use of standardized procedures brings order and dependability to forensic fiber analysis. Forensic fiber analysis standards address procedures such as microscopic examination, thin-layer chromatography, or infrared spectroscopy. In addition to procedures, these standards also contain definitions and terminology, included in order to improve consistency between laboratories.

Forensic Seized-Drug Analysis Standards

Forensic seized-drug analysis standards are concerned primarily with the analysis, sampling, and identification of seized-drugs. Serving to promote analysis that is consistent and reliable, forensic drug analysis standards cover the education and training of the forensic analysts involved, continuing on to delve further into the standard guides for microcrystal testing of cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, phencyclidine (PCP), and its analogues. Additionally, forensic drug analysis standards address the underpinnings of other procedures, with the standard practice for validation of seized-drug analytical methods, as well as uncertainty assessments in the context of seized-drug analysis.

Forensic Psychological Detection of Deception Standards

Forensic psychophysiological detection of deception (PDD) standards deal with the use of polygraphs in investigations. Starting with the standardization of terminology related to forensic psychophysiology, the standards address both the technology and the examiner’s procedures, with the collection as a whole serving as a standard guide for the usage of polygraphs. With regards to the technology, the standards address the instrumentation, sensors, operating systems, as well as calibration and functionality checks. For the examiner, standards outline ethical and continuing education requirements, in addition to addressing standard practices for interpretation and the conduction of research. Special attention is paid to the application of PDD to the examination of sex offenders, with separate standards for the minimum training and continuing education of those examiners.

Forensic Sexual Assault Investigation Standards

Sexual assault forensic analysis standards guide sexual assault investigations, examinations and evidence collection. Since sexual assault investigations require the involvement of a range of different skilled forensic experts, equipment, and procedures, there needs to be an overarching standard guide to keep the resulting data coherent and reliable. Another major concern is the preservation of evidence for later use. In addition to these, standard guides have also been developed for the clinical psychophysiological detection of deception (PDD) testing of sex offenders, dealing with the examinations themselves as well as the training and education requirements placed upon the examiner.

Forensic Technological Standards

Forensic technological analysis standards address the intersection between forensic investigation and electronic records. Dealing with both the analysis of recovered evidence as well as the electronic storage of forensic information, forensic technology standards seek to preserve information in its original form, for reliable retrieval, whether it is immediate, at a later point in the investigation, or during other investigations. A focus is the applicability of electronic records as legal evidence and the specific guidelines that are enacted towards that goal.

Other Forensics Standards

Other forensic standards, here grouped to introduce a sample of the range of forensic inquiry, delve into topics set as broadly apart as forensic dental data sets and forensic paint analysis and comparison. The development of standardized procedures and formats for such a wide range of potential tests and data types lends credibility to the field of forensic inquiry as a whole, with each additional standard supporting the already existing pool. Furthermore, other related standards, such as those for land search, address the collection of forensic evidence before it even reaches a laboratory.