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Toxicology in the Criminal Justice System

Forensic science has played a significant role in the field of the criminal justice system for centuries. With the urge and determination of emerging forensic science, some evidenced advancements have led to the development and existence of many relevant sciences, incorporating toxicology. In a broader perspective, toxicology refers to studying and understanding the adverse effects of chemicals on biological systems (Simmons, 2014). Recently, the aspect of toxicology in the criminal justice system has proven to be of greater significance in that the exploration of new toxicology theories has led to a promise for a proficient toxicology study. In addition, the exploration of toxicological methods has resulted in an incredulous stride in crime investigation in the criminal justice system (Simmons, 2014). This essay is a research paper that will look into the aspect of toxicology in the criminal judicial system, its prevalence, importance, and the core value of integrity as it applies to the criminal justice system and recommendations among others.

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Toxicology Prevalence in the Criminal Justice System

The understanding and development of science and its appliance to legal matters has been a major force driving society and the criminal justice field. Back in the 1940s, the fascinating marriage of criminal justice and science has led to the incredible developments in the handling of some criminal investigations (Daly & Jackson, 2016). As it has been noted, toxicology incorporates numerous procedures that need to be observed to achieve the expected results as to why, how, and what has caused the death of an individual. There are different steps involved in the application of toxicology in the criminal justice system.

The first step is specimen collection. In this case, specimen collection corresponds to the type of cause of death such as suicide, industrial accident, or motor vehicle crashes. The samples collected are urine, blood, liver, and vitreous humor. When the cause of death is a homicide, then the samples collected are urine, liver, bile, hair, vitreous humor, and gastric content. If the death is drug related, then the specimens collected include blood, urine, vitreous humor, bile, hair, and liver (Daly & Jackson, 2016). A blood sample stands to be the specimen of choice due to its use in quantification, interpretation, and detection of drugs and other toxicant concentration in the post-mortem. The level of concentration of toxicants and drugs in the victim’s blood are often useful in determining recent drug ingestion and ascertaining the effect of the drug on the deceased at the time of death (Daly & Jackson, 2016).

The liver is the solid primary tissue used in the post-mortem toxicology since it is the only organ that metabolizes the majority of toxicants and drugs. Since many drugs are concentrated in the liver, they can be retrieved even if there are no toxin levels in the cold blood. Vitreous humor also stands to be a diagnostic specimen in the investigation. Vitreous humor refers to the clear, gel-like substance filling the eye, which is always essential in screening a range of drugs and alcohol concentration. It is always present when there is motor trauma, homicides, suicides, and workplace accidents. The other samples less commonly used incorporate bone and bone marrow, stomach content, hair, and nails (Simmons, 2014).

The second step is testing. In most cases, the aspect of testing seems to be a very complex process that requires sophisticated equipment and highly trained analysts. In a typical autopsy, tissue and fluid samples are collected from the body specifically for the toxicology test that will be of better use in the field of criminal justice. Under the aspect of testing, it is found that the types of samples used and the testing targets are determined by the circumstances and the condition of the body (Simmons, 2014).
The biological evidence gathered from autopsies is required to give support for common lab tests and be helpful in investigating some of the potential causes of death. These results in greater extent will enhance the investigations in the criminal justice department and come up with the best and fair judgment to the offenders and the offended. Therefore, the application of toxicology to the criminal justice system has great importance in the field of criminal justice (Simmons, 2014).

The Role of Toxicology in the Criminal Justice System

The most important and significant role in toxicology is that it finds a wider application in determining a person’s cause and the manner of the death. The prosecution uses a toxicology report to determine whether the person was murdered, he/she died of an accidental overdose, or committed suicide. These results are anonymously utilized in the court as evidence to come to the just and precise judgment to the cause of death of the person since some deaths are too complicated to find the reason as to why the victim died (Hess, Orthmann, & Cho, 2016).

Toxicology has contributed enormously to the police department work since it connects the criminal departments with the necessary evidence such as drug and alcohol use. According to the national drug policy in the year 2010, it was recorded that 78% of convicted criminals tested for drugs had shown positive result (Simmons, 2014). Therefore, toxicology needs to be embraced and to be widely used in the field of criminal justice to ease the work of the prosecutors. Additionally, toxicology is a continuous advancing discipline since new drugs are developed, which enhances a creation of a constant need to design new approaches for their detections. To address this challenge new equipment and detection methods that would see that the process occurs as anticipated in the field of criminal justice (Simmons, 2014).

The Core Value of Integrity as it Applies To Criminal Justice

In every workplace or field of work, there are specific core values of integrity that guide the employees and make sure that each employee is bound to his jurisdiction of work. The criminal justice system incorporates three parts that comprise of the legislative system having the function of creating laws. The second part is the adjudication that involves the procedures taking place in the courts, and lastly the corrections that incorporate the prisons, jails, parole, and probation (Daly & Jackson, 2016).

In the field of criminal justice, integrity is the aspect of adhering to the ethical and moral principles that reveal the soundness of moral character and honesty to the greater extent. In addition, it is required that a person has to stand by his or her word if there is a need to speak out on something to someone. In the field of criminal justice, the aspect of integrity needs significant consideration to enhance the services offered by the correctional officers. Under the criminal justice system, the core value of integrity means knowing and doing what is right. It incorporates commitment and it is required of a staff member of the criminal judicial system to set high standards for his or her behavior to stick to them even in a difficult situation (Hess et al., 2016).

Under integrity, the officer is required to be courageous by standing up for what is right and just. The other thing that an agent needs to understand as the core value of integrity is honesty. An officer working in the criminal justice system needs to choose words and actions precisely, making sure that they are sincere and not misleading. Some officers do embrace it, but some do it the opposite way (Hess et al., 2016). It is also of much significance for a staff member in the criminal justice system to be disciplined. It requires the officer to have self-control and to be dedicated to his work even when undergoing difficulties or challenges. Lastly, the criminal justice system officers need to be resilient, which has the meaning of learning from his or her mistakes and losses and seize the improvement opportunity to the latter (Hess et al., 2016).


Therefore, it is evidenced on how much the aspect of toxicology has been of more significance in the field of the criminal justice system. Consequently, it is a recommendation for the criminal justice system to take into account the application of toxicology techniques in their investigations. Forensic scientists, on the other hand, are required to take much consideration in enhancing and improving the science of toxicology. This way they will be able to handle the current first drugs that seem to be harmful and pose a challenge for them to identify from the samples collected (Daly & Jackson, 2016). Lastly, the aspect of integrity also affects the criminal justice system largely. Hence, it is a requirement for an officer to observe the core value of integrity that states knowing and doing what is right.

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From the above discussion, it is understood that toxicology in the criminal justice system is of great significance in the identification of the cause of a person’s death, which in turn helps an adequate investigation. In most cases, through the science of toxicology, the specialists come to a concrete conclusion on what has caused the death having analyzed the specimens taken from the body. They include such blood, vitreous humor, and urine, liver and, to some extent, the stomach content bile and hair for a detailed test. Lastly, it is highly necessary to improve and design the equipment to meet the current advancement in drugs and toxicities.

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