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Ethics In Criminal Justice

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Autor:   •  December 1, 2010  •  1,007 Words (5 Pages)  •  895 Views

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It goes without saying that ethics is an extremely important aspect of criminalistics work. More often than not, your findings will hold more weight in the outcome of a case than anything else. You basically hold someone's freedom in your hands. With the technological advancements made of late, and the limited number of experts that conduct, analyze, and report their findings have to be up to the standards to maintain professionalism as well as ethical practices. Although there have been instances of misconduct, steps are being taken to try to weed out those unsuitable to work in the field.

The American chemical society demands that its members stick to the utmost degree of ethical standards. As part of this, they came up with "The Chemist's Creed", which basically states that the chemists that are members of the society agree to acknowledge the following responsibilities:

* "Be actively concerned with the health and welfare of co-workers, consumer and the community...seek to advance chemical science, understand the limitations of their knowledge, and respect the truth...remain current with developments in their field....keep accurate and complete laboratory records, maintain integrity in all conduct and publications...promote and protect the legitimate interests of their employers...treat subordinates with respect for their professionalism...regard the tutelage of students as a trust conferred by society for the promotion of the student's learning and professional development...serve clients faithfully and incorruptibly, respect confidentiality, advise honestly, and charge fairly." (ACS)

Without abiding by these rules, leave way for disastrous consequences. Many individuals have been wrongly accused and convicted based on false evidence, whether accidental or purposefully. If the criminalists and forensic scientists simply disregarded these practices, how are we to have any faith in the world of science in regard to criminal justice? It is our job to process the evidence at hand, reporting the findings, and explaining those results in a court of law, if need be. It is not to twist the evidence around until it fits the outcome we want. If you do not have high enough moral and/or ethical standards, this can become difficult.

Ethical dilemmas arise on a constant basis. For instance, "A criminalist retained by the defense discovers incriminating evidence overlooked by the prosecution laboratory. What should he or she do with the incriminating trace when it comes time to return the bulk of the evidence to the police agency?" Do you throw it away? Have the defense criminalist retain it? Package the slide with the fiber in it packaged together with the bullet and return it to the other agency? Or do you take the incriminating fiber and return it to its original location on the bullet and return it that way? If you have any sense of work ethic, you will know that throwing away key evidence is wrong, no matter which side you are working for. That goes back to the issue of "making the evidence fit the outcome of the issue". (Barnett) If you as the defense criminalist keeps it, it is basically as bad as throwing it away. What would happen if you were called as an expert witness? Would you perjure yourself on the stand if asked about it? If you take the third option, you risk the issue of "self incrimination", as you are working for the defendant. But choosing option four, leaving the fiber on the bullet, it could be lost in the transfer. There is no "black or white" right or wrong answer. You have to use your own judgment, following your professional convictions, and believe that you did the right thing based on the circumstances.

Its quite easy to see how, without upholding professionalism, the public would lose faith in the field of forensic science. There was an issue a few years back regarding

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