Ethics in Forensic Science: Professional Standards for the Practice of Criminalistics

By Smrz, Melissa Anne | Forensic Science Communications, July 2002 | Go to article overview

Ethics in Forensic Science: Professional Standards for the Practice of Criminalistics


Smrz, Melissa Anne, Forensic Science Communications


Ethics in Forensic Science: Professional Standards for the Practice of Criminalistics.

Peter D. Barnett

CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida

ISBN 0-8493-0860-7

With the advancement of forensic science, both in general and within specific disciplines such as forensic DNA analysis, the role of the criminalist and forensic scientist is growing increasingly more important and is subject to greater public scrutiny. Whereas forensic scientists have long faced ethical challenges, these scientists must now consider ethical issues routinely. Peter D. Barnett, in his book Ethics in Forensic Science: Professional Standards for the Practice of Criminalistics, examines existing ethics codes in criminalistics and forensic science and defines the need for such codes. He provides examples of situations not uncommon to forensic scientists that merit examination of ethical practices. He also discusses developing a code of ethics for forensic science organizations that do not yet have one or are struggling to establish one. He points out the dilemmas organizations have faced in enforcing ethics codes among the membership.

Ethics in Forensic Science: Professional Standards for the Practice of Criminalistics is divided into two sections. In Section One, the author examines existing ethics codes. For each code cited, he emphasizes its strengths, weaknesses, and differences. The author also discusses the need for and importance of professional ethics codes. He cites examples of situations in which rules, organizational mandates, and competency guidelines are at present inadequate. He discusses the differences between legal and scientific principles and how these differences can "muddy" obligations the forensic scientist might have. This section then delves into the application of various codes of ethics and how they impact the forensic scientist on a daily basis. It covers such topics as the interaction among the forensic scientist, investigators, and attorneys, both prosecuting and defense. It also covers the interaction between the forensic scientist and laboratory colleagues.

In Section Two, the author puts the codes and considerations discussed in Section One into practice by citing hypothetical, yet specific, case scenarios that forensic scientists could face in their daily practice. …

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