Forensic Terms


Analgesic or pain-killing substance that depresses vital body functions such as blood pressure, pulse rate, and breathing rate.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)

A short sequence found outside of the cell nucleus in cells. Called mitochondria, this material is used in the absence of quality genetic material like blood, semen or saliva. It is passed only from mother to child; siblings share maternal mitochondria. Hairs and fingernails are good sources of mitochondria.

Micro-spectro Photometry

The use of an electronic microscope in which electrons are beamed onto the specimen. The analyst then charts the electron emissions that are created in order to identify the specimen.

Medical Examiner

A medical doctor who determines causes of death, performs autopsies, and acts as an expert witness in criminal and civil trials where cause and/or manner of death are relevant.

Manner of Death

An explanation of the way in which death is caused. Medicolegal manners of death are: homicide, suicide, accidental, natural, and undetermined.

M.O., or ‘Method of Operation’

From the Latin, Modus Operandi. Refers to method by which crimes are committed. Most often used on an individual basis to establish the pattern with which a perpetrator carries out a crime or series of crimes.


A chemical that is capable of detecting bloodstains diluted up to 10,000 times. Luminol is used to identify blood that has been removed from a given area. It is an invaluable tool for investigators at altered crime scenes.

Low Explosive

An explosive with a velocity of detonation less than 100 meters per second. Gunpowder is a low explosive.


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Forensic Files® is a pioneer in the field of fact-based, high-tech, dramatic storytelling. This series of television programs delves into the world of forensic science, profiling intriguing crimes, accidents and outbreaks of disease from around the world. is the official source for information about the program — and the premier online destination for video and information on Forensic Science.

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