Definition and History of Criminal Investigation

The definition of criminal investigation is the study of facts, that are used to identify, locate and ultimately prove guilt or innocence of an accused criminal. The investigation is mainly the process used to reach a certain goal.

Criminal investigations date back to prehistoric era when early man took to fingerprint by pressing their hands and fingers into clay or rocks. Babylonians are used fingerprints on clay tablets for business purposes and to preserve identification for official needs. Through 700 BC to 44 BC the science evolved, and the Chinese begun to record thumb prints even without a formal classification system, the Ancient Greek physician Erasistus is said to have created the first lie detector in 250 BC because he had noticed his patients pulse rates would increase when the patient was lying.

An investigation in Julius Caesar’s death in 44 BC showed that only one of the twenty-three stab wounds he received only one was fatal. Over the next several hundred years crime scene investigations focused on fingerprints, and chemical elements such as poisons so by 1813, toxicology was developed and by the mid-1800s the Scotland yard had begun comparing bullets.

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The late 1800s and early 1900s, we saw the introduction of technology-based evidence like using body temperatures to determine time of death, we also saw the creation of a systematic approach to identifying fingerprints.

Also, during this time portable polygraph machines were developed, tests to detect gunshot residue and many other technologies that we still use today were developed. Today’s crime scene investigation has seen rapidly increases and new challenges to have yet to be fully understood, and technologies that have been built and advanced over the last couple hundred years and will continue to advance with each new technology and numerous possibilities.

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The reliability of forensic science has been questionable in today’s justice system. Testimony by experts can be very persuasive when presented at trials, but juries don’t always see the true scientific evidence but also just because the persuasion of the evidence can also put innocent people behind example is the use of scent lineups and just how well are they reliable. A case in Texas showed that sometimes using scent lineups and dogs cannot be, a officers who was a dog handler was positive that his dogs could positively find the murderer in a case of a woman found dead, his dogs tracked a man who was well respected and a former police officers as well as four other men who were arrested and charged with the murder all ended up being innocent when the son of the woman admitted to murdering her.

These men were charged with the crime and lives ruined because of the use of scent lineups. The men were cleared of the charges but not before their lives and reputation were ruined. So, the question is just how reliable can a dog sniff out a suspect from a crime scene.? Dog have been very reliable at sniffing out criminals in a then and their situation, and of course in finding drugs and explosives but there is no proven science behind it this this leaves other theories to question as well such as blood splatter analysis, ear and lip prints and even fingerprints have been questionable but all of which have made or broke a case. All the techniques are questionable and not all have been proven and have flaws.

But these techniques have also helped free innocent people and have also put innocent people behind bars. The Innocence Project has exonerated over 252 people by DNA since 1989, how was because the science was questioned and proven to be faulty forensic science. One human error in a forensic investigation can create a major reliability issue in any case but in we should never give up on the science because like all sciences they are all imperfect and all can have it flaws. But by using a little skepticism on the law enforcement side on these techniques the history will show that sometimes if something is to good to be true it probably is.

Forensic science has repeated helped in catching repeat offenders by using its methods to document and eventually helping to arrest a person repeating the same crimes. They help in using techniques such as fingerprints and computer records because once a person is arrested they go into a system of documenting that can be pulled up in many different databases. Using criminal records is usually the most effective method to catching repeat offenders because a law enforcement agent can look a person’s background and determine the passivity if the person could be example of this could be when a officers pulls over a car and checks the driver if the person has a background in say drugs and is acting suspicious then most likely the person is committing the crime of drugs yet and again.

But like all things law enforcement administrators and even prosecutors should be aware of the legal produces needed to be successful in judgment’s procedures should be well documented and detected in the preliminary investigation and aware of the state-to-state guidelines recommended by doing these things help establish the databases such as fingerprints in systems used widely by almost every today.

The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is a main database that can help id a suspect by using nonbiometric characteristics, AFIS is another database that includes the fingerprint information. The National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS) lets officers make inquiries in any state, with these different databases and using the guidelines set by a department catching repeat offenders should be easier and more efficient.

In every aspect of the criminal justice system there is a moral reasonability and in every criminal investigation there is no excuse for not being responsible because it can make or break a case. Because the success of a criminal investigator depends on the quality of the information they obtain, it is critical to examine every aspect of the crime scene from the interviews taken of the witnesses, collecting physical evidence and analyzing the correct and needed materials to identify what and how to solve the case.

That also means being accurate and getting enough information, well documented evidence, pictures, videos and of course having a moral responability should be the most efficient way to have a successful case. Using AFIS, NCIC, and the NLETS can also be proven to help in the investigation because you can find things in sometimes other cases to pursue or discount. But with all these techniques and information the most important thing is the moral responabiluty of the investigator by doing the right thing regardless of if one thinks the person is guilty or not. Criminal investigations are the least studied police functions and it is easier to say pass judgement on a person wheiter they are guilty or innocent.

Because it is the least studied it has over time evolved to be a very effective tool in solving a crime and putting a criminal in the right place behind bars. For the science of criminal investigation to succeed it must be adaptable and willing to change to meet the new challenges to technology and ways of finding out the most accurate and reliable way of finding new evidence all while staying non-judgmental and morally responsible. Working on better relationships with all departments can also affect the successfulness of the case.

To sum up and to bring it all together, forensic science and criminal investigation have been studied and use for centuries and have only been greatly improved or disproved in there reliability and accuracy but they also continue to improve with the new technologies and techniques and by doing what is moral right and collecting accurate information and evidence with also the willingness to adapt to change and improve can help a case become very successful. There will always be the skeptics that will try to prove that this science is not actually a science but if everything is done proficient, accurate and efficiently the science will in time prove the truth in the field and to prove the reliability in the science. This science is a much needed one and has many breakthroughs just waiting to happen and can only improve in the future.

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Definition and History of Criminal Investigation. (2021, Dec 14). Retrieved from

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