Criminalistic Examination by Experts

Criminalistic Examination by Experts


a type of examination based on criminalistics and conducted by experts for the use of a court. A criminalistic examination consists of the study of material evidence and other information pertaining to a criminal or civil case with the goal of identifying people, animals, vehicles, instruments, or tools by the traces they have left or by parts that can be recognized as components of a whole. According to the circumstances of the given case, a criminalistic examination may also involve the solution of specialized questions not pertaining to identification.

In Soviet legal practice, experts are most frequently called upon to examine handwriting, documents, prints and marks, ballistic evidence, and photographs. In the first type of investigation, experts try to determine who wrote a text, a signature, or numbers by analyzing the handwriting. In examining documents, they try to establish the original version of a text that has been altered by erasure or any other destructive or deceitful means. In such examinations, experts also study the paper, types of inks, and instruments used in making the documents, and they identify seals, stamps, typewriters, cash registers, and other apparatus. Experts in prints and marks seek to identify a person by footprints, fingerprints, or marks left by the skin of other parts of the body; they also identify tools used to break and enter and vehicles. Ballistics tests are conducted to identify a specific weapon by traces left on the ammunition, such as cartridges and bullets, and to establish all the facts pertaining to the firing of a shot—the moment at which it was fired, the distance from which it was fired, the locations at which the bullets entered and left the body, and the position of the victim. Photographs are examined to identify a person who figures in a case.

In recent years, experts have also studied materials and substances to help resolve problems of classification. For example, chips of paint may come from specific parts of a motor vehicle, bits of soil and plants may be associated with a precise location, and substances of unknown origin may contain narcotics. In such instances, the criminalistic examination is highly complex and includes chemical, physical, and biological analyses.

Criminalistic examinations are conducted by physical, photographic, chemical, biological, and mathematical methods, using complex instruments and equipment, sometimes including computers. In the USSR, the conduct of criminalistic examinations is mainly entrusted to experts in specialized state institutions—scientific research institutes and laboratories that were established for such purposes and subdivisions of criminalistics in the Ministry of Justice of the USSR and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR.