Polk County Medical Examiner

About Forensic Science

Forensic science (often shortened to forensics) is the application of a broad spectrum of sciences to answer questions of interest to the legal system. This may be in relation to a crime or to a civil action.

The Disciplines:

  • Criminalistics is the application of various sciences to answer questions relating to examination and comparison of biological evidence, trace evidence, impression evidence (such as fingerprints, shoeprints, and tire tracks), controlled substances, firearms, and other evidence in criminal investigations. Typically, evidence is processed in a crime lab. Some of the forensic science disciplines are:
  • Forensic anthropology is the application of physical anthropology in a legal setting, usually for the recovery and identification of skeletonized human remains.
  • Forensic ballistics is the science dealing with the investigation of use of firearms and ammunition.
  • Forensic engineering studies the causes of failure of devices and structures.
  • Forensic entomology deals with the examination of insects in, on, and around human remains to assist in determination of time or location of death. It is also possible to determine if the body was moved after death.
  • Forensic evidence deals with scientific evidence from a crime scene.
  • Forensic epistemology deals with philosophical knowledge in a legal setting, typically for understanding behavior of states.
  • Forensic odontology is the study of the uniqueness of dentition. (study of teeth).
  • Forensic psychology and forensic psychiatry deal with the legal aspects of human behavior.
  • Forensic toxicology is the study of the effect of drugs and poisons on the human body.
  • Questioned document examination is the study and interpretation of evidence that takes the form of document.

Contact Us

To report a death call (515) 286-3333
1801 Hickman Rd
Des Moines, Iowa 50314
(515) 286-2102 (Days)
(515) 286-3333 (Other times)
Fax: (515) 286-2208