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Film Tips: Crime Scene Processing, Courtroom Procedures, and Firearms

Written on October 6, 2016

Crime Scene Processing, Courtroom Procedures, and Firearms

For film and TV productions looking to create an accurate depiction of crime scene processing, courtroom procedures, and firearms, below are some commonly overlooked considerations:


  1. Police have to charge their weapon before firing (pull the slide rearwards).
    1. In fact all military and police handguns are double action meaning pulling the trigger cocks the hammer and fires the pistol. Each shot there after loads the following cartridge.
    2. All military and police on duty carry semi-automatic pistols loaded, charged with the safety on.  To fire only requires the safety to be inactivated and the trigger pulled.
  2. All firearms can be “silenced”.
    1. Most firearms can have the sound suppressed.
    2. The proper name of such a device is a suppressor not a silencer.
    3. Firearms that fire a supersonic projectile can suppress the sound at the barrel but there is another loud bang when it surpasses the sound barrier.
      1. Rifles have sound suppressors to disguise the location of the shooter because of this phenomenon.
      2. It is impossible to suppress the sound made when the projectile breaks the sound barrier.
  3. Military and police place their hand under the clip well to receive the empty ejected clip.
    1. This gets police killed.
    2. The clip is ejected directly onto the ground.
      1. It is important to practice this method during training to assure that officers are not killed trying to retrieve an expended clip.
  4. All fully automatic assault rifles shoot levelly.
    1. All when fired fully automatic rise substantially from recoil.
    2. That is why police and military are taught to shoot in short bursts.
    3. That is why the M16 fully automatic military assault rifle was replace with a weapon that only shoots three round bursts.
  5. Nothing is ever shoved down the barrel of a handgun to retrieve it.
    1. Destroy lands and grooves which can be used to identify a projectile fired from the handgun.
    2. Handguns are not lifted by the trigger guard.
      1. Some firearms can be discharged with a very light touch.
    3. Handguns are lifted by the checkered part of the hand grip.
      1. Less likely to destroy fingerprints.
  6. Submerged firearms may allow recovery of fingerprints on the external frame, clip or cartridges in the clip.
  7. Projectiles should never be retrieved from bodies using metal forceps.
    1. Can destroy land and groove impressions.


  1. Forensic scientists have Master’s Degrees or Phds and never attend crime scenes.
    1. Their job is to test, compare and experiment.
    2. Each forensic scientist has a specialty e.g. finger prints, blood spatter etc.
      1. That’s all they do every day all day.
  2. Crime scene technicians wear scrubs, booties and hair coverings.
  3. They work under the direction of the crime scene investigator.
  4. Nothing is touched by the investigator until everything has been photographed, documented and sketched.
  5. Forensic personnel are not certified police officers.
  6. Forensic personnel do not carry guns.
  7. Forensic personnel do not interview witnesses.
  8. Forensic personnel do not interrogate suspects.
  9. Forensic personnel are not present when suspects are arrested.
  10. No one (investigators, forensic personnel or coroners staff) examine the body for cause of death at the crime scene.
    1. Go through the deceased’s pockets.
    2. Move the corps until chalked and photographed.
  11. Once the crime scene is released it cannot again be visited without consent of a warrant.
    1. Crime scene exception to the warrant expires once the scene is released.
    2. First responding officer secure the scene until it is released.
      1. They are always first on the scene.
      2. They are always last to leave.
  12. Fingerprints can be recovered on the sticky side of tapes (duct tape most commonly).
    1. Fingerprints can be lifted on the sticky side of duct tape that has been submerged.
  13. Currency can be examined for fingerprints.


Content courtesy of Professor Ronald F. Becker.

Ronald Becker, J.D., is a professor of criminal justice and criminology at Charminade University (Honolulu, HI). He specializes in underwater forensic investigation. Professor Becker’s background is in corrections and criminal investigation. He is available for film and TV consultancy for all matters relating to crime scene processing, courtroom procedures, and firearms.

Purchase his Criminal Investigation book here and Underwater Forensic Investigation book here.