A forensic scientist is first a scientist. When a scientist’s knowledge is used to help lawyers, juries, and judges understand the results of scientific tests, the scientist becomes a forensic scientist. (Sherlock Holmes was a forensic scientist).
Forensic science is a vital tool in the search for the truth in any legal proceeding. In criminal matters, scientific analyses and tests conducted by qualified forensic scientists can exonerate as well as convict an accused person. In civil cases, such as a lawsuit for damages from a vehicle accident or from a medical problem, testing and analysis by a qualified forensic scientist may be used by either side to address the validity of the allegations in the suit. Regardless of the type of legal proceeding or which side uses scientific evidence, the forensic scientist must be able to write a report and testify under oath about: what facts or items of evidence were analyzed or tested; what tests or analyses were used; how valid or reliable those tests or analyses have been found to be by other courts; why and how the forensic scientist was qualified to conduct those tests or analyses; and, what the results of the tests or analyses were and how those results are relevant to the issues in dispute.