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vocabulary for unit test 1

rigor mortis

A medical condition that occurs after death and results in the stiffening of muscle mass.


The medical dissection and examination of a body in order to determine the cause of death.

physical evidence

Any object that can establish that a crime has been committed or can link a crime and its victim or its perpetrator.

DNA typing

A technique used especially for identification by extracting and identifying the base-pair pattern in an individual's DNA.

scientific method

A process that uses strict guidelines to ensure careful and systematic collection, organization, and analysis of information.


Something legally submitted to a tribunal to ascertain the truth of a matter.

forensic science

The application of science to the criminal and civil laws that are enforced by police agencies in a criminal justice system.


The science or philosophy of law.


The application of scientific techniques in collecting and analyzing physical evidence in legal cases involving a crime.


An act or the commission of an act that is forbidden by public law and that makes the offender liable to punishment by law.

forensic odontology

The study of teeth and bite marks to identify a body or tie a suspect to a crime.


The study of the nature of disease and especially the structural and functional change that causes them.

inductive reasoning

Inference in which one draws a general conclusion from particular instances.

deductive reasoning

Inference in which one draws a conclusion about particulars from a general premise.

Mathieu Orfila

The father of forensic toxicology.

Alphonse Bertillion

Devised the first scientific system of personal identification in 1879.

Francis Galton

Conducted the first definitive study of fingerprints and their classification.

Leone Lattes

Developed a procedure to determine blood type from dried bloodstains.

Calvin Goddard

The first to use a comparison microscope to determine if a particular gun fired a bullet.

Albert Osborn

Developed the fundamental principles of document examination.

Walter McCrone

First utilized microscopy and other analytical methodologies to examine evidence.

Hans Gross

Wrote the first treatise describing the application of scientific principles to the field of criminal investigation in 1893.

Edmond Locard

In 1910 he incorporated Gross' principles within a workable crime laboratory.

Locard's Exchange Principle

States that when a criminal comes in contact with an object or person, a cross-transfer of evidence occurs.

Sir Alec Jeffreys

Developed the first DNA profiling test in 1984.

Physical Science Unit

Incorporates the principles of chemistry, physics, and geology to identify and compare physical evidence.

Biology Unit

Applies the knowledge of biological sciences in order to investigate blood samples, body fluids, hair, and fiber samples.

Firearms Unit

Investigates discharged bullets, cartridge cases, shotgun shells, and ammunition.

Document Unit

Provides the skills needed for handwriting analysis and other questioned-document issues.

Photographic Unit

Applies specialized photographic techniques for recording and examining physical evidence.

Toxicology Unit

Examines body fluids and organs for the presence of drugs and poisons.

Engineering Science

The application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and sources of energy in nature are made useful to people.

Physical Anthropology

The science concerned with the comparative study of human evolution, variation and classification through measurement and observation.

expert witness

An individual whom the court determines to possess a particular skill or knowledge in a trade or profession that is not expected of the average person.

Ted Bundy

A serial killer believed to be responsible for 40 murders between 1964 and 1978 who was ultimately convicted based on forensic odontology.

Karl Landsteiner

Discovered that blood can be grouped into different types, A, B, AB and O.

Latent Fingerprint

A fingermark that is not easily visible to the naked eye.

Voiceprint analysis

Used to identify the speaker in a recorded message.

Sound Spectrograph

An instrument used to transform speech into a visual graphic display called a voiceprint.

Forensic Psychiatry

A specialized area that examines the relationship between human behavior and legal proceedings.

Forensic Computer Science

Involves identifying, collecting, preserving and examining information derived from digital devices.


To support with evidence and authority.


A dried aqueous extract of a vine used as a poison that paralyzes muscles and causes death by suffocation.


This means to make the crime scene safe and is usually accomplished by the first officer arriving on the scene.


This means to exclude all unauthorized personnel and isolate the crime scene.

Record the Scene

Investigators have only a limited amount of time to work the site of a crime in its untouched state, so this time must not be lost.


The art or process of producing images by the action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface.

Rough sketch

A graphic drawing made at the crime scene that contains an accurate depiction of the dimensions of the scene and shows the location of all objects having a bearing on the case.

Finished sketch

A precise, often computer-aided draft, rendering of the crime scene, usually drawn to scale.


A symbol library used to add intricate details to a crime scene sketch.


A computerized sketching program that has become the standard method for reconstructing crime scenes from rough sketches.

Note taking

A constant activity occurring throughout the processing of the crime scene that provides a detailed written description of the scene with the location of items of physical evidence recovered.

Integrity of Evidence

Special procedures used for finding, collecting, and transporting physical evidence that preserves its evidentiary value.

Trace Evidence

A minute and often barely detectable amount or indication of a chemical constituent not always quantitatively determinable.


Involving the measurement of an amount.


An analysis that determines the presence or absence of an item or substance but does not determine the amount.

Medical examiner

A physician, functioning as a public officer, who conducts autopsies on bodies to find the cause of death.


An elected public officer whose principal duty is to conduct an inquest into the cause of any death which there is reason to suppose is not due to natural causes.

Chain of custody

Establishing continuity of possession, through a complete list of all people who came into possession of an item of evidence, essential whenever evidence is to be presented in court.

Reference sample

Physical evidence whose origin is known, that can be compared to crime scene evidence.

Buccal swab

A sample of the inner portion of the cheek, performed to collect cells for use in determining the DNA profile of an individual.

Substrate control

Uncontaminated surface material close to an area where physical evidence has been depositied; used to ensure that the surface itself does not interfere with laboratory tests.


An aggregate of cells together with their intercellular substance that form one of the structural materials of a plant or animal.


An aggregate of tissues working together to form a structural, functional unit.


A dead body, especially of a human being.

Forensic pathology

Involves the study of medicine as it relates to the application of the law, particularly in the investigation of sudden, unnatural, unexplained, or violent death.

Cause of death

Classified into five categories: natural, homicide, suicide, accident, or undetermined, based on the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Livor mortis

A medical condition that occurs after death and results in the settling of blood in areas of the body closest to the ground.

Algor mortis

A process that occurs after death in which the body temperature continually cools until it reaches the ambient temperature.

Vitreous humor

Ocular fluid, used for measuring potassium levels, that can be helpful in estimating the time of death

Forensic Anthropology

Primarily concerned with the identification and examination of human skeletal remains, which can be used to reveal the sex, approximate age, race, and the presence of skeletal injury of a subject.

John Wayne Gacy

The worst American serial killer, who brutally raped and murdered 28 young men and buried them in the crawl space under his house.

Preliminary examination

An overview of the crime scene as it was left by the perpetrator, prior to the thorough and systematic collection of evidence.


The unintentional transfer of a substance from one object to another through direct, indirect or casual contact.

Gary Ridgway

The green river killer who confessed to the murder of 48 women after forensic DNA typing confirmed the presence of his semen in three of the women.

Qualified Evidence Collector

An investigator thoroughly familiar with the recognition, collection, and analysis of physical evidence who can make innovative, on-the-spot decisions at the crime scene.


A medical science dealing with blood fluids and especially their immunological reactions and properties.


Any and all forms of tracks, glove and other fabric imprints, as well as bite marks in skin and foodstuffs.


The process of determining a substance's physical or chemical makeup.


The process of ascertaining whether two or more objects have a common origin.


The frequency of occurrence of an event.

Individual characteristics

Properties of evidence that can be attributed to a common source with an extremely high degree of certainty.

Class characteristics

Properties of evidence that can be associated only with a group and never with a single source.

Product Rule

States that the probability of two independent events occurring simultaneously is the product of their individual probabilities.

Additive Rule

States that the probability of an event occurring that can do so in more than one way is the sum of their individual probabilities.


An automated national fingerprint and criminal history system maintained by the FBI and launched in 1999.


A combined DNA indexing system that enables federal, state, and local crime laboratories to electronically exchange and compare DNA profiles, linking crimes to each other and to convicted offenders.


A national ballistics information network which allows firearms analysts to acquire, digitize, and compare markings made by a firearm on bullets and cartridge casings recovered from crime scenes.


The method used to support a likely sequence of events at a crime scene by observing and evaluating physical evidence and statements made by those involved.

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