Skip to main content


Forensic Science

"Robert Melias became the first person convicted of a crime in England on the basis of DNA evidence in 1987" (Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial, National Institute of Justice, 1996).


A crime scene often is rich in information that reveals the nature of the criminal activity and the identities of those persons involved. Perpetrators and victims may leave behind blood, saliva, skin cells, hair, fingerprints, footprints, tire prints, clothing fibers, digital and photographic images, audio data, handwriting, and the residual effects and debris of arson, gunshots, and unlawful entry. Some crimes transcend borders, such as those involving homeland security, for which forensic evidence can be gathered (Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, National Academy of Sciences/National Institute of Justice-Sponsored, 2009).

The term "forensic science" encompasses a broad range of forensic disciplines, each with its own set of technologies and practices. Some of the forensic science disciplines are laboratory based (e.g., nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analysis, toxicology and drug analysis); others are based on expert interpretation of observed patterns (e.g., fingerprints, writing samples, toolmarks, bite marks, and specimens such as hair) (Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, National Academy of Sciences/National Institute of Justice-Sponsored, 2009).

The extensive use of biological evidence to identify victims and offenders has had a significant bearing, in recent years, on the course of law enforcement investigations, criminal court proceedings, and victim service provider issues. DNA evidence arguably has become the most well-known type of forensic evidence, probably because it can be uniquely identifying and because it is the genetic blueprint of the human body. For these reasons, DNA evidence has become a highly influential piece of the crime puzzle (The Future of Forensic DNA Testing: Predictions of the Research and Development Working Group, National Institute of Justice, 2000).

To address the reach of forensic science across the entire justice system, NCJRS has compiled a list of resources to help provide a basic foundation of knowledge in forensic science.

This topical resource on Forensic Science contains the following information:

Facts and Figures – Includes the latest information and statistics.
Legislation – A sample of links to online Federal and State legislation and testimony.
Publications – A sample of available resources.
Programs – Examples of State and local programs and initiatives available online.
Training and Technical Assistance – A sample of training and technical assistance opportunities available through nationally recognized agencies and associations.
Grants and Funding – Links to Federal funding opportunities.
Related Resources – Examples of nationally recognized agencies and organizations that provide services or information.

Links from the NCJRS Web site to non-Federal sites do not constitute an endorsement by NCJRS or its sponsors. NCJRS is not responsible for the content or privacy policy of any off-site pages that are referenced, nor does NCJRS guarantee the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, or correct sequencing of information. NCJRS is also not responsible for the use of, or results obtained from the use of, the information. It is the responsibility of the user to evaluate the content and usefulness of information obtained from non-Federal sites.