forensic scientist

A Layman’s Guide to Forensics: Separating Fact from TV Fiction

Rows of scientific equipment. People in lab coats wearing safety goggles and latex gloves. Vials, test tubes, and droppers. Dusting for fingerprints. Forensic analysis procedures set to pulsing electronic music. If you have watched any episode of any crime drama show on television, you will have already seen a scene like this before. And as cool and as interesting as it may look on the screen, the stuff you see on television is – surprise, surprise – not completely true. In this article, then, we will take a look past the curtain and into the gritty world of forensic investigation, picking apart the myths perpetuated by TV dramas.

forensic scientist

Myth #1: DNA evidence is foolproof.

Right off the bat, let’s address a myth that is arguably the most impactful. In just about every crime drama murder case, DNA evidence – such as hair, nails, skill cells, or bodily fluids – provide definitive proof that leads to the culprit by the end of the episode. And although there is no denying that the use of DNA recovered from a crime scene as evidence has evolved forensic investigation and improved law enforcement by leaps and bounds, the idea that DNA is foolproof couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it is actually very easy for DNA evidence to end up returning false positives. Given that something as trivial as a person’s hair or nail clippings are considered as DNA evidence, we can see that it is not impossible for the DNA of a person to be used as evidence against him, even if he never had any connection to the crime in the first place.

It might seem a bit far-fetched reading about it right now, but believe it or not, false positive errors like this have actually happened in real life. As an example, one random person was wrongfully convicted of rape after his DNA was found on a cotton swab used as evidence. It was only after the person had spent five months in jail that the DNA evidence was later found to have been contaminated due to an error on the handling of the swab in the forensics lab.

Myth #2: Forensic investigators only work on murders.

TV drama investigators might only be seen working on murder cases, but that is only so due to the fact that murder cases are a lot more interesting to show on television. In reality, forensics teams actually spend a lot more of other time working on less violent cases such as burglaries and break-ins – cases that still require their expertise to collect, analyse, and catalogue evidence for the courts.

Myth #3: Cases involving forensics are solved quickly – say, within a week.

Although it is not impossible for a case to be closed within a week of its filing, such occurrences are extremely rare as there are many factors that draw out the length of a court case to months or even years. Let us first consider the fact that even forensic investigation takes a significant amount of time. Crime scenes are often blocked off for days if not weeks as investigators go back and forth between the crime scene and the lab to collect and process fingerprints, DNA, and other trace evidence – even for burglary cases. And although the processing of, say, a blood sample would only take a couple of hours, comparing it against a large database to find a match isn’t exactly quick. Compounded by the slow and lengthy process of the legal system to form a strong case against a suspect that has been properly backed by evidence, and you can clearly see that real cases are never really solved within the span of a 20-minute episode.

Clean up Service Virginia

Myth #4: Forensics teams spend as much time out in the field as they do in the lab.

Much like teachers, doctors, lawyers or engineers, forensic scientists also have their own specialisations. There are some who are trained specifically for finding and collecting evidence out in the field, and there are likewise those trained to handle, process, and analyse that collected evidence with care and precision. A forensic investigator who would have to do both is nonexistent, if otherwise extremely rare, and the only reason they are seen doing both jobs on TV is really to focus the viewers onto a memorable cast of characters.

Myth #5: Forensics teams clean up crime scenes.

At first glance, it might make sense for the people who poke through crime scenes looking for evidence to be the same people who clean it up. However, cleaning up crime scenes isn’t exactly on their job description. That would be where professional biohazard cleanup firms, such as The Aftercare, come in. Our job is to come on to the crime scene after medical teams and law enforcement have done their jobs, and safely remove and dispose of any hazardous materials within the affected area. We also take the time to make sure that no traces of the biohazards are left within the area, which includes cleaning blood off the walls, floors, and from any furniture or objects that have been contaminated by biohazards caused by the accident.

Besides working with law enforcement, however, we also extend our services to residents and businesses throughout the Virginia and North Carolina area. We pride ourselves on exceptional service and rapid response time, able to arrive on the scene within our coverage area in no longer than two hours. Our cleanup teams are certified professionals with extensive training and experience in the safe handling and disposal of biohazards, and are more than capable of handling cleanup work for both residential and commercial applications including disposal of animal waste, sewage, hoarding, site disinfection, and more. Our services are always available 24/7, so you can expect the same high quality service at any time of day and at any day of the year – even on holidays – with reasonable and flexible pricing options to fit your needs.

Keep a direct line to The Aftercare at 757-535-4367 for all of your bioremediation needs.