Crash Investigation and Physical Evidence

By Badger, Joseph E. | Law & Order, February 2002 | Go to article overview
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Crash Investigation and Physical Evidence

Badger, Joseph E., Law & Order


Crash investigation and physical evidence go handin-hand. Two new publications on the market address both topics. Henry Lee, whose forensic science lectures are legendary, teamed up with Howard Harris to write Physical Evidence in Forensic Science.

Dr. Lee was born in China in 1938, was a police captain with the Taipei PD, earned a B.S. in Forensic Science in 1972 and a PhD in biochemistry in 1975. With a background in chemistry, Howard Harris is the director of the Forensic Science Program at the University of New Haven, and received his law degree at St Louis University.

Lee and Harris' text is primarily aimed toward detectives in general, and crime scene technicians in particular. However, there are several sections of the book of interest to those of us who climb over crashed cars looking for physical evidence of one kind or another.

Physical evidence analysis can assist the investigator in pursuing a productive path by providing clues from the characteristics of the physical evidence. In a hitand-run case, for example, examination of a chip of paint found in the victim's clothing can be used to provide information on the color, and possibly the model and year of the automobile involved.

Too often investigators fail to collect such evidence as hair from a cracked windshield, or fingerprints from a steering wheel or shoes. Investigators are often faced with the question of who was driving. With today's technology of DNA it is much easier to place a particular person behind the wheel if physical evidence is properly collected.

Physical evidence may link a suspect with a vehicle, disprove or support witness testimony, or provide leads. In car fires, correctly gathered and packaged evidence may indicate arson. If no blood or tissue evidence is available to suggest who was driving, fiber evidence may show who wasn't.

A considerable amount of information is given on the collection of blood evidence, field tests and laboratory examinations. Of particular interest is the chapter titled "The Proper Seizure of Evidence for Effective Utilization in Court." This chapter discusses inventory searches, custodial arrest, professional handling of evidence and related matters.

There's an entire chapter on soil. Some of the most common objects upon which soil or dust is found include: shoes, clothing, automobiles, tools or weapons.

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