Guiding Principles

The American Congress of Forensic Science Laboratories was created to advance the following principles related to the use of forensic science in our criminal justice system, and to ensure that these principles influence the continued evolution and fairness of our criminal and civil justice systems in the United States:

1.  Professional Distinction
The forensic laboratory sciences collectively form a critical profession that is separate and distinct from other enterprises operating within the American criminal and civil justice systems.  Forensic laboratory professionals have and adhere to standards of practice, codes of conduct, and professional responsibilities that are unique in scale and scope.

2.  Independence
Professionals working in forensic science laboratories, without exception, serve the public best when they do so objectively and impartially.  They must have an appreciation for and understanding of competing parties in the criminal and civil justice systems, but with undue loyalty to none.

3.  Scientific Development
The forensic laboratory sciences combine the practice of science with the arts of communication and professional collaboration, all of which require the development of specific competencies and professional skills.  Agencies employing forensic laboratory scientists must plan and invest the resources necessary to ensure that all critical competencies are learned, developed, and monitored.

4.  Nonadversarialism
Collaborative environments that nurture civil conversations and respectful debate are best suited for learning, evaluating, and applying specialized knowledge and scientific findings for use in criminal or civil justice.  Highly adversarial or political environments have the effect of compromising the ability of forensic laboratory professionals to fully serve their beneficiaries and the public at large.

5.  Judicial Mandate
The Federal Rules of Evidence, as well as other rules of evidence promulgated independently by individual states and jurisdictions serve as the ultimate thresholds of admissibility for evidence produced and presented by representatives of forensic science laboratories. 

6.  Dispassion
It is highly inappropriate for professionals working in forensic science laboratories to communicate official opinions about the criminal guilt or innocence of defendants, or the liability or culpability of respondents in civil litigation. 

7.  Transparency of Limitations
All scientific findings have degrees of uncertainty, and all scientific endeavors have the potential for error, miscommunication, or misapplication.  Inappropriate portrayals of scientific evidence as being more reliable or fallible than what is justified are considered unacceptable and unethical.

8.  Judicial Advocacy
The American judiciary must advance at a pace that is sufficient to maximize the application of scientific or other specialized evidence.

9.  Free Enterprise 
Private sector businesses and entrepreneurship make possible the forensic laboratory sciences and must therefore be and remain supported and respected components of the industry.

10.  Transcendent Professionalism
Effectiveness in the forensic laboratory sciences requires competencies and standards of professional integrity that transcend areas of technical specialty and are therefore critical to all who work in forensic science laboratories.

Federal initiatives aimed at reforming the American criminal justice system have the potential to impact the forensic laboratory sciences in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come.  ACFSL seeks to leverage the collective voice of its membership to influence policy and legislation affecting forensic science laboratories in the United States by working in partnership with other organizations currently serving and representing the forensic laboratory sciences.

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