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Criminal investigation as an applied science is an integral part of criminal justice process. It involves the study of facts, evidence and the circumstances of the crime, aimed to find the perpetrator. Nevertheless the investigation does not assist in deterring and mitigating crime; it lies within the goals of criminal justice to impose sanctions on the guilty. Any procedure of criminal justice requires reliable information to be based on and criminal investigation as a means of obtaining it. Despite all of the ambiguity of investigation’s status in the hierarchy of the criminal justice system, it is a background of the inquiry and consequently of the whole crime-solving process.
The history of the criminal investigation as a science of ancient times may be traced to the writing of the Code of Hammurabi, created in 1700 BC, which described the rights of the accusers and the accused. According to the Code, both of the parties were allowed to present the evidence, collected by them. British constables were also the first mentioned criminal investigators, while they recorded the facts connected with the crime; it was recorded around 1250 BC. (Becker, 2010) Modern criminal investigation is performed by governmental police forces; however, the private investigators may be also hired to assist in the process, but private practice is not allowed in all of the countries.
Different innovations and scientific techniques serve the process of the technical criminal investigation. This set of devices and techniques used is known to be the part of the forensic science, which is the practical study of the crime scene. Among the instruments of the study there are forensic anthropology, chemistry, dactyloscopy, DNA analysis, odontology, pathology, psychiatry, psychology, toxicology, trace evidence, digital forensics and the other fields, which may contribute to the study of the crime.
Forensic science is an important part of the criminal investigation, serving as the practical tool; therefore it is necessary to understand the principles of forensics. It is hard to underestimate the role of forensics in investigation, because only the aggregate of effective tools and techniques may provide the success of investigation. The history of the forensic science is closely connected with the criminal investigation, as they can be reviewed as the sides of one process: investigation as the theoretical and tools of the forensics as the practical.
The forensics is traced to the Roman times, when the case used to be presented in front of the forum; the name of the science derives from this. The speeches of the accusers and the accused included the evidence, which aimed to prove either side of the conflict; consequently the best argument of the speech would be recognized as truthful. Unfortunately, the forensics was not an established science with standardized practices, so many criminals succeeded in avoiding punishment. Ancient Chinese forensic sciences applied some techniques, such as saliva, mouth and tongue analysis. However, the means of checking the guilt and the innocence were sometimes rather cruel, for example licking the hot metal, which was practiced in the Middle Ages (Osterburg and Ward, 2010).
In the modern history the following investigators, who contributed to development of the science, may be named: a French surgeon Ambroise Paré, who studied the evident effects of violent death; Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele, who invented the way of detecting poison; English chemist James Marsh, who distinguished chemical processes able to indicate arsenic and German chemist Valentin Ross, who was able to detect poison in the stomach of a victim. These and other practical studies and researches contributed to the development of the subdivisions of forensic, such as chemical forensics that is employed till nowadays.
Forensic studies may be sometimes regarded as not reliable and purely theoretical. Becker (2010) argues that forensics is totally scientific and therefore should be treated seriously, as it has specific methodology. The investigation is performed successfully and the crime is solved when the techniques of forensics are taken into account and effectively used.
Osterburg and Ward (2010) claim that over the last decade the nature of criminal investigation and the roles and responsibilities of the investigators have changed substantially. The era of digital technologies, which penetrate into all of the spheres of our life, has profoundly changed the matter of crime and therefore the nature of criminal investigation. The crimes in the digital world have become common, so the devices of investigating them are forced to change as well. The new mass-media means, cellular phones and the Internet in particular have a profound effect on the process of criminal investigation.
As most of the digital crime is of the type of organised, the special means are required to trace them and to prove the guilt. Criminal profiling is an assistance tool that helps to profile and predict the character and personality of the possible offender. Though, some of the scientists, like Devery (2010) believe that obsession with the offender profiling may lead to dangerous miscarriages of justice. Profiling may be traced to the period of Middle Ages, when the inquisitors used to accuse the heretics basing on the certain profiles. Later, this technique was reviewed by Cesare Lombroso and the others in the 19th century; however those investigations are widely regarded as influenced by prejudice. The profiling was not regarded as authoritative means until James Brussel created a clear and accurate profile of the New York bomber, so the FBI became interested in the tool (Devery, 2010). Nowadays, it may be applied by police in determining the criminal, but very carefully.
The domain of criminal investigation raises some doubts and questions even nowadays. Firstly, it is criminal profiling that is ambiguous. The history knows some cases when faulty accusations, based on offender profiling assumptions, helped to imprison innocent people (Devery 2010). In other cases the real criminals were not taken into account because of the certain confusing patterns, determined by investigators. The characteristics, ascribed to the potential offenders, could be correct, but failing some essential details (Becker, 2010). The opinion is expressed by Devery (2010) that intuitive approach and insight of the specialists in the field of profiling may be more useful than theoretical sources. However, this point of view is obviously not supported by the modern science, which intends to have only the facts as the background. Therefore, nowadays, such technique of criminal investigation as offender profiling is not widely employed.
The other questionable matter of the criminal investigation is the problem of security in the digital world. On the one hand, criminal investigators have to employ various methods in order to find the offender; on the other hand, the process of collecting information may include some level of intrusion into private life of people, especially their privacy on the Internet or other sources.
The perception of some techniques employed in the forensic science is also changing nowadays. There are some claims (Grabosky, 2010) that even the most reliable sources of evidence may be inaccurate at some occasions; for example it is not yet proved that the fingerprints of each person are unique or the DNA analysis, which is supposed to be the most dependable, can be faked and cause dangerous consequences. The statement that laboratory procedures may be performed by investigators only in order to prove the existing opinion, but not to have independent results and draw real conclusions, make the forensic science vulnerable nowadays.
The notion of the criminal investigation as a part of criminal justice process is still crucial today. The research conducted in this sphere concerns the following questions: the development and perspectives of the criminal investigation; role of criminal profiling within the structure of criminal investigation; its investigative tools and techniques; the practice of criminal investigation; special investigations and means of gaining information. Criminal investigation has different aspects to conduct research on.
Although the criminal investigation is mostly practical science, which aims to receive and analyze information, the theoretical background is necessary. The different type of data is collected, classified and categorized in order to serve the practical needs of investigation. The gathered theoretical material is necessary for the research scientific purposes and the pragmatic goals of the investigation process.
The supporting fields of criminal investigation, reviewed before, such as forensic science and offender profiling need careful theoretical research too. The criminal profiling, as Devery (2010) states, and its concepts need to be checked empirically, but before this they have to be developed in theory. That is why the current research of the criminal profiling is very important to continue.
To conclude, the modern science of criminal investigation is a result of a long period of historical development and improvement. This field of criminal justice consists of practical studies and the theoretical research as well. Criminal investigation is being researched and should be studied and complemented further as a unique art of science.