Importance of Forensic Science for Lawyers, Qualification, Salary Scale of a Forensic Lawyer
Know Who is a Forensic Lawyer? What’s their Job? How much they get paid? All you need to know!
“You may spare 100 criminals but 1 innocent should not be punished”.
This is what Forensic Science aims to achieve – protecting the innocent. Through scientific methods, answers are provided to pertinent questions surrounding a crime, puzzles are fixed, mysteries are solved, and the conviction of innocent persons can be prevented.
Criminal justice systems around the world have greatly benefited from Forensic science. Investigation and collation of accurate evidence for criminal adjudications have been greatly enhanced by this field of science.
Forensic Science is also important to civil law, even though its impact is largely felt in criminal law.
Because of its relevance, it is pertinent to have a basic understanding on forensic science, especially for lawyers.
What is Forensic Science?
Forensic science simply involves the application of scientific methods and processes to solve crimes and answer legal questions. In other words, using science to find out who is guilty or not guilty of a crime, how a crime was carried out, and such other kind of questions.
From the photographer at the criminal scene, to the pathologists, medical examiners, finger print experts, forensic scientists, etc., the fields in Forensic science are quite broad.
However, one fact is straight forward – Collecting evidence/specimen from crime scenes, conducting tests, making analysis, and putting together reports, through scientific methods and processes, has greatly improved criminal investigations and adjudication of criminal cases.
These reports also help the visualization and understanding of circumstances surrounding a crime, before an actual confession is gotten from a criminal. And this information helps lawyers present their cases before the court.
Forensic science has become an integral and trusted component of criminal justice system, as well as in civil cases.
What does the Study of Forensic Science Involve?
Natural sciences, particularly biology, chemistry, and physics, provide the fundamental concepts and processes for forensic sciences.
These natural sciences are taught in line with knowledge from fields of criminal justice/law.
Emphasis is placed on recognizing, identifying, and evaluating physical evidence for the purpose of achieving information that is relevant as legal evidence.
Therefore, a forensic scientist is expected to:
- Examine physical evidence
- Administer tests
- Analyse/Interpret data
- Make clear reports from interpreted data
- Give truthful testimonies
Forensic scientists usually carry out their examinations and analysis within the confines of their laboratory. However, where the need arises, it is not unusual to see them out in a crime scene collecting evidence and specimen.
The common tools/techniques used in forensic examination and investigation are:
- Blood Testing tools, for testing the blood samples picked up at a crime scene. From this samples, the persons present at a crime scene, and possibly, the perpetrator of the crime, can be traced.
- Autopsies: This is used for determining the cause of death and time of death.
- Comparison microscopes for comparing bullets, to determine whether a bullet was fired from a suspect’s gun.
- Neutron Activation Analysis used for comparing shards of shattered bullet with the metallic makeup of bullet found on a suspect.
- Electron Microscopes
- Chemical Analyzers, used to analyze and separate chemical components in drug-related crimes.
Scope of Forensic Science-
As earlier pointed out, forensic science is quite broad. Some areas in forensic science include
- DNA fingerprinting
- Autopsy techniques
- Forensic Anthropology
- Forensic Psychology
- Cyber Forensics
- Forensic Speech Science, etc.
Some specialties of possible interest include:
- Forensic Pathologist
- Forensic Chemist
- Clinical Forensic Medicine Expert
- Forensic Anthropologist
- Forensic Linguist
- Forensic Psychologist
- Crime Lab Analyst
- Finger Printing Analyst, etc.
These diverse areas and specialities are focused on techniques used for getting the following types of evidence:
- DNA Evidence: DNA evidence collected from physical materials at crime scenes to discover who was present at the scene.
- Trace Evidence: Evidence like finger prints, footprints, and even tire prints are picked up and analyzed through scientific techniques. This evidence is stored until such times they are needed or compared against other samples/specimens.
- Biological Evidence: Samples of human remains, blood or other bodily fluids obtained at crime scenes, especially those not visible to the naked eyes, are picked up, tested, and examined to obtain information/data which will help an investigator deduce the circumstances surrounding a crime.
- Ballistics: This is concerned with the study of weapons, especially bullets. With this technique, a trained ballistic specialist can examine a bullet and determine the type of weapon that was used in a crime, where the bullet was fired from, the path of the bullet, and other relevant information.
Who is a Forensic Lawyer?
Unlike general attorneys, a forensic lawyer is one who is an expert in a field of forensic sciences. In other words, a lawyer who is a forensic scientist is a forensic lawyer.
So, unlike general attorneys who rely on reports of forensic scientists, a forensic lawyer personally gathers physical materials from a crime scene, studies them in a lab or office, researches, uses scientific processes to make deductions, gathers information, makes analysis, and forms his report.
Qualifications of a Forensic Lawyer-
A person who desires to be a forensic lawyer must have expertise in both forensic science and law. Thus, a person must have appropriate educational background and training in both fields to qualify as a forensic lawyer.
Therefore, persons desirous of venturing into this field must complete & obtain a law degree. With the law degree, they can proceed to do the following:
- Get into a degree program in natural sciences or in forensic sciences. In India, it is necessary to pass the science exams, NET Forensic science entrance exam, and JEE Forensics Science entrance exam.
- After the degree program, get a training position under the supervision of senior forensic analyst.
- After the training, obtain a professional certification. This will show expertise in a specific area of forensic science.
A number of colleges in India offer degrees in Forensic Sciences. Some of them are:
- Amity Institute of Forensic Sciences
- Gujarat Forensic Science University
- Lol Nayak Jaya Prakash Narayan National Institute of Criminology & Forensic Science, Delhi
- IFS India Education Department
- University of Madras in Chennai
- Deen Dayal Upadhaya College
- Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, Delhi
- Xavier’s College, Mumbai
- Bundelkahand University
- Hari Singh Gour University
- Anna University, Chennai
- Osmania University, Hyderabad
- Bhim Rao Ambedkar University, Agra
The prospects for Forensic lawyers are not limited. This is because the increase in cybercrime, rape, and general crime rates will essentially increase the demand for forensic experts for the purpose of expediting investigation processes.
Currently, forensic lawyers can work in:
- Government practice, including law enforcement agencies and anti-terrorist operations; and
- Private practice
Salary structure for forensic experts vary. This variation is determined by the organization you work for, whether you are in private practice, and the nature/complexity of the case.
However, PayScale has valued the annual average salary of a forensic expert in India as INR 979,592 to INR 5 million.