Colorado Crime Scene Investigation – HD Laser Scanning

The Emerging World of High Definition Laser Scanning

Using High Definition Laser Scanning, an entire crime scene can be thoroughly documented making it possible to revisit the scene as the evidence is analyzed.

High Definition Laser Scanning (HDLS) is leading the way when it comes to cutting-edge, comprehensive forensic examination solutions. Specifically, the ability to capture every aspect of spatial data at the scene of a crime allows investigators to revisit the evidence therein as it was originally found. Investigators are finding the capabilities of HDLS to be a powerful tool from the initial stages of evidentiary analysis straight through to the closing arguments in the courtroom.

When it comes to investigating the scene of a crime or an accident site, every forensics professional knows the value of preserving every minute detail of possible evidence in the exact location and condition as it was found. There is also the matter of items passed over initially as irrelevant later becoming elemental in proving a case; but alas, being lost puzzle pieces, rendering a doubt reasonable in the minds of those who weren¡¯t there. The same applies to the scene of an accident, when quick clean-up is essential; investigators are left with a blank space where answers could have been found.

High Definition Laser Scanning

Experienced forensic professionals are now utilizing cutting-edge High Definition Laser Scanning technology to keep the answers in their places. Preserving the scene with three dimensional (3D) modeling capabilities accurate to 1.5mm and a capture radius of 360¡ã ¡Á 270¡ã, a forensic geoscience team can create a fully animated and interactive time capsule of a given space, complete with full spatial analysis, object and ballistic trajectory, and line of sight data.

The current protocol in crime scene investigation involves manually taking hundreds of photographs and measurements, forcing investigators to busily move around the scene to try to cover all angles and collect relevant spatial data. The process is time consuming and presents the possibility of compromising the physical evidence. Once the scene is given up, all that is left for reference is a group of numbers which loosely delineate what can be seen in the corresponding two dimensional photographs.

One reason HDLS is so far superior to conventional photographic point referencing is that it can scan and collect five million points of reference in about one hour. From there, the collection of referenced points, called a “point cloud,” is stitched together with digital photographs taken by the same scanning instrument to create a working model of the entire location. This allows the information to be made available to investigators throughout the process of examining evidence and building a case; it can then stand as expert testimony in the courtroom as well.

The ability of one company to accomplish work that once tied up multiple officers from several law enforcement agencies during the critical hours of an investigation provides staggering time and cost saving benefits. Every company in every industry needs to accurately monitor its assets and the resources at its disposal. In determining fault in their fields of investigation, law enforcement and insurance agencies must monitor the assets and resources available to them: the observations that they make upon arrival at the scene of an incident. The use of HDLS allows law enforcement agencies to collect more timely and accurate information from crime or accident scenes using fewer law enforcement personnel, collecting more valuable assets while using fewer resources to do so.

By providing a working 3D model of the scene as first-responding investigators found it, law enforcement agencies are able to scrutinize and analyze the details long after the scene has been released. If necessary, this information can be presented to a jury¡ªour engineers can practically turn a courtroom into the time and place in question¡ªaffording everyone present a view of the crucial details of a case, which had been deliberated blindly until HDLS arrived on the scene.

Above and Beyond

The implications of 3D scanning technology are diverse beyond the reaches of its current applications. There are frontiers of this relatively new advancement in technology still waiting to be explored¡ªeven within its current applications. At UTEK we are always finding new ways to use this technology. By working closely with the geomatics engineers, who are constantly developing the potential of this technology, we have access to all of the latest techniques for maximizing the output of our clients¡¯ pool of crucial evidentiary data.

HDLS technology doesn¡¯t only apply to homicide investigations and auto accidents. The farther reaching frontiers of 3D scanning are perhaps the most interesting of all: cases of industrial accidents and natural disasters, where structural analysis and modeling could actually prevent the loss of life by identifying flaws in existing and/or future designs. Also, when installing new components to an existing framework it is important to assess the feasibility of the structure to support the new equipment designs.

HDLS allows individual pieces of fragile debris to be scanned and converted into a virtual 3D model that can be sent off to specialized labs around the world for further scrutiny. A non-contact method of measurement reduces the risk of compromising critical evidence and eliminates the need for surveyors to access hazardous areas. This is true for industrial size accidents as well as everyday automobile accidents.

The scanning of individual objects also crosses back over to crime scene investigations as well as archeological explorations, especially where all that is left to examine are fragile skeletal remains. Instead of attempting to transport delicate material from place to place, several specialists around the world can examine the sample at the same time without leaving their office or lab.

Along the same lines, making plaster casts of evidence such as shoe prints and tire tracks has always been a useful tool for creating a physical representation of evidentiary data. However, in doing so there is a risk of damaging the original article. A 3D laser scan of an object can be shared by experts around the globe and is more convenient for cross-referencing through a computer database because the object is already digitally replicated in all of its physical dimensions. Characteristics such as wear patterns and weight distribution of a footwear print become evident and can eventually be compared to a scan of the actual suspect¡s shoe.

With an effective range of 300 meters, the scanning instrument employed by UTEKs forensic engineers can safely collect a highly detailed full spectrum analysis of an accident site. This powerful range also enables us to take in the big picture and scale it to the size of a working model from where a broader range of causation can be examined.

HDLS has also proven to be an effective and powerful tool in revisiting cold cases where specific geospatial data is necessary to demonstrate a visual link between the suspect(s) and the crime. The HDLS software is fully compatible with a wide range of other precision engineering instruments. We utilize GPS/GIS surveying technology along with aerial photogrammetric mapping to tie in with the 3D modeling and detailed scans so that the entirety of a situation can be taken into account, creating a virtual dragnet: a suspect is placed in relative proximity to the events leading up to, during, and after the time when crime took place.

As an experienced Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer, H. Michael Steinberg stays current with changes in forensic science such as laser crime scence investigation. It is a powerful means of cross examination in the event a case is forced to trial. Call H. Michael if you need a Colorado Criminal Lawyer with a lifetime of courtroom experience. 303-627-7777.

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