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  • Ballistics: Ballistics is the study of the trajectory (path) of the bullet.

  • Firearm identification: This is a forensic process that analyzes the bullets, cartridge cases, and shotgun shells to help law enforcement determine what type of gun they were fired from.


  • Criminologists: these individuals study crime and criminal behavior in an attempt to reduce it.

  • Criminalists: forensic scientists who study and analyze the physical evidence from a crime scene.


  • Bullets: the projectile that embeds itself into the target.

  • Cartridges: the casing for the projectile, or the bullet.


Accelerant:  When starting a fire starting, an accelerant is any flammable fluid or compound that speeds the progress of a fire.


Administrative:  Each crime scene is assigned a crime scene coordinator. This is a written record of the actions taken by the crime scene coordinator, including assignments and release of the scene.


Admissibility:  A legal criterion used to determine whether an item of evidence can be presented in court; requires that the evidence have relevance, materiality, and competence.


Admission:  This is when a person of interest acknowledges certain facts or circumstances that could incriminate them with respect to a crime. This is not enough to constitute a complete confession.


Affidavit:  A written, sworn statement of the information/facts.


AFIS:  The Automated Fingerprint Identification System which is maintained by the FBI and stores millions of fingerprints. Law enforcement uses the system to compare fingerprints taken at a crime scene for identification purposes.


Amido black:  A dye that is sensitive to blood. It is used to develop fingerprints contaminated with blood.


Anthropometry:  This is the study and comparison of body measurements as a means of identifying criminals.

Assignment sheets:  These are given to authorized persons assigned tasks at a crime scene that document what they have done and found.

Associative evidence:  Bidirectional evidence that connects the perpetrator to the scene or victim or connects the scene or victim to the perpetrator.


Autopsy:  The formal examination of a body conducted by the medical examiner to determine the time and cause of death. An autopsy is required in all cases of violent or suspicious death.

Basic yellow 40:   A dye that causes latent prints to fluoresce under alternative lighting.

Battered-child syndrome:  The clinical term for the injuries sustained by a physically abused child.

Behavioral evidence analysis (BEA):  A process in which characteristics of the perpetrator are determined from evidence at the crime scene helping to create a criminal profile.

Be-on-the-lookout (BOLO):  A notification broadcast to officers that contains detailed information on suspects and their vehicles. Police put out a BOLO on a suspect.


Bore:  The diameter of a gun barrel's interior between its opposing high sides.

Burn indicators:  Any effects of heat or partial burning that indicate a fire's rate of development, points of origin, temperature, duration, and time of occurrence and the presence of flammable liquids.

Cadaver dogs:  Dogs trained to be sensitive to the odor of decomposing human remains. They assist in locating bodies buried in the ground or submerged in water.


Cadaveric spasm:  The instantaneous tightening of an extremity or other part of the body at the time of death. Also called the death grip.


Caliber:  The diameter of a bullet itself which is somewhat larger than the bore of the weapon from which the bullet is fired.


Chain of custody:  The witnessed, unbroken, written chronological record of everyone who had an item of evidence and when each person had it; also accounts for any changes in the evidence.


Charring:  The scorching of materials by fire. This is used to deduce the direction of fire spread by comparing relative depths of char throughout the scene.

Chop shop:  An illegal operation where stolen cars are disassembled and their traceable parts are altered or disposed of so that untraceable parts can be sold.


CID:  Criminal Investigation Department.


Class characteristics:  Characteristics of physical evidence that are common to a group of objects or persons.


Cognitive interview technique:  This is an approach by interviewers in which a witness is asked to recall events and details in different ways to foster their recollections.


Combined DNA Index System (CODIS):  Developed by the FBI, a database of convicted offenders and known- and unknown-subject DNA profiles that is used to find matches and to link unsolved crimes in multiple jurisdictions.

Concentric fractures:  Lines that roughly circle the point of impact in a glass window.


Contaminated/visible prints:  These are prints created when fingers contaminated with blood, face powder, or a similar material touch a clean surface.

Crime analysis:  The use of systematic analytical methods to acquire timely and pertinent information on crime patterns and trend correlations.


Crime scene entry log:  A written chronological record of all persons who enter and leave the crime scene and the times they do so.


Crime scene release:  This is the end of crime scene processing and the return of the premises to the owner or another responsible person.

Criminalistics:  The application of scientific disciplines, such as geology, physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics, to criminal investigation and the study of physical evidence.

Criminal profiling:  The process of inferring distinctive personality characteristics of individuals who commit crimes.

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