Forensic Serology: Definitions & Examples

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  • 0:03 What Is Forensic Serology?
  • 1:23 Forensic Serology Tests
  • 3:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tisha Collins Batis

Tisha is a licensed real estate agent in Texas. She holds bachelor's in legal studies and a master's degree in criminal justice.

Forensic serology is important in the criminal justice world. It can capture perpetrators by detecting the bodily fluids they leave behind when committing crimes. This lesson will explore this branch of forensic science by defining forensic serology and providing examples.

What Is Forensic Serology?

A young woman walking her dog along a popular trail one morning happened upon a gruesome scene. Her dog had pulled her toward some bushes just a few feet from the trail, where she saw a sliver of bright pink on the ground. Unfortunately, she soon discovered that it was part of a pair of jogging pants attached to the body of a deceased woman. She called the police, and the area quickly became a crime scene.

Detectives, crime scene technicians, and a medical examiner arrived quickly and began to process the scene. The body was photographed then transported carefully to the morgue for processing. The medical examiner discovered that the victim had been beaten, raped, and strangled. Evidence found on the victim's body was gathered and processed with the goal of determining the identity of the perpetrator. Bodily fluids were found and DNA extracted. But how were these fluids found to begin with? It couldn't be an easy task to find fluids and determine their origin. This is where forensic serology comes in.

Forensic serology helps to capture killers by finding and studying bodily fluids that are left at crime scenes. These fluids include blood, semen, and saliva. A forensic pathologist can determine the identity of these bodily fluids through specific tests and then further test the fluids to determine whom they came from.

Forensic Serology Tests

There are different tests forensic pathologists can conduct on fluids and stains left by a perpetrator to prove their origin. If a stain is suspected to be blood, for example, it can be tested using a presumptive test for blood. Three different tests can be used for this, including:

  1. Kastle-Meyer
  2. Leucomalachite green
  3. Luminol

Different things happen with each of these tests. With the Kastle-Meyer and leucomalachite green tests, a solution is placed on a blood stain. If the solution changes color, there might be blood present. For example, a cotton swab with the solution could be rubbed on the stain. If the cotton swab changes color (depending on the test done), blood might be present.

With luminol, the process is a little different. Luminol is sprayed on an area believed to have blood present, and then, the area being tested is made dark. If the luminol glows, there might be blood present. If it appears there is blood present, the forensic pathologist can have the blood tested for DNA.

A forensic pathologist also might believe semen is present on a victim's clothing or inside a victim's body. A sexual assault exam may be performed with evidence gathered and processed. The tests for semen are similar to those of blood. They are:

  • Acid phosphatase
  • UV light

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