Trace Evidence Law and Legal Definition

Trace evidence is a very small piece of evidence left at a crime scene that may be used to identify or link a suspect to a crime. Trace evidence analysts may use a variety of instrumentation and visualization tools in their analysis of evidence: Stereoscopic Microscopy, Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM), Ultraviolet Light Microscopy, Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM/EDX), Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FT-IR), Gas Chromatography / Mass Spectrometry (GCMS), Pyrolysis Gas Chromatography (PGC), Ion Chromatography (IC), and Microspectrophotometry. Trace evidence, though often insufficient on its own to make a case, may corroborate other evidence or even prompt a confession.

The following types of evidence, among others, may be analyzed:

  • Hairs and Fibers
  • Paints (automotive and architectural)
  • Explosives
  • Glass
  • Headlamp Filaments
  • Footwear and Tire Impressions
  • Physical Matches
  • Arson Debris
  • Acids/Bases
  • Miscellaneous Unknowns