Underwater Forensic Investigation: 2nd Edition (Hardback) book cover

Underwater Forensic Investigation

2nd Edition

By Ronald F. Becker

CRC Press

371 pages | 87 Color Illus.

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Hardback: 9781466507500
pub: 2013-05-23
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780429253430
pub: 2013-05-23
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The evidence discovered at underwater crime scenes must be handled with the same attention to proper chain of custody procedures as with any other type of investigation. Improper handling of these scenes can lead to evidence being lost, unrecognizable, destroyed, contaminated, or rendered inadmissible at the time of trial. Updated and expanded, Underwater Forensic Investigation, Second Edition presents a comprehensive approach to the processing of an underwater crime scene and the steps necessary to conduct the operation.

The book summarizes the history, physics, and laws applicable to underwater investigations and includes topics such as team formation, roles, deployment, and accountability. Explaining procedures that can make a true difference in the final outcome of water-related incidents, the author also debunks myths associated with submerged evidence.

This second edition contains several new chapters on photography, contaminated sites, preservation of evidence, and release of the crime scene, and includes expanded information on death investigation and organizing the dive team. Nearly 100 color illustrations supplement the text.

The science of water-related investigations is still in its infancy, and hence, the field needs accurate and useful sources of education. This text will assist law enforcement professionals and those in other areas of public safety in gaining the knowledge that has historically been lacking. The incorporation of the procedures presented will enable those tasked with working these scenes to develop a greater degree of professionalism, objectivity, thoroughness, and accuracy relating to the investigation of water-related incidents—increasing the chance for successful resolution of these difficult cases.


"Ron Becker is an accomplished criminal investigator turned personal injury attorney and judge. He took a fascination for the history of marine archaeology and underwater search and recovery and coupled it with his passion for forensic science and criminal law procedure in the pursuit of educating others in underwater forensic investigations. He is the author of the second edition of Underwater Forensic Investigation, published in 2013 by CRC Press. The text, which is 351 pages divided into 15 chapters, is a comprehensive view of this emerging area of criminal investigations. … If you are an aspiring underwater forensic investigator, this book will encourage you to expand your knowledge of dry-land forensic crime scene processing and modern forensic techniques. For the police and crime lab administrator who may have a more historical view of this subject matter, the book effectively creates awareness and understanding of the benefits to ensuring any team operating in your service area does so with an eye on scientific rigor and commitment to building technical skill."

—B. Kroupa, RTI International, in Forensic Science Review, Vol. 26, No. 1

Table of Contents


New Words and Concepts

Student Learning Outcomes

Man and the Sea

Law Enforcement and Underwater Evidence

Myth 1

Myth 2

Myth 3

Myth 4

Myth 5

Myth 6

Myth 7

Myth 8

Myth 9

Myth 10

A Brief History of Underwater Investigation

New Words and Concepts

Learning Outcomes

Diving History

Diving Dress

Caisson Disease

The Cause of Decompression Sickness

Nitrogen Narcosis

Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

Underwater Investigation

Some Important Dates in the History of SCUBA Diving

An Explanation of Pressure and the Laws of Boyle, Charles, Dalton, and Henry

New Words or Concepts

Student Learning Outcomes

Recognize Charles Law

Nitrogen Narcosis

Decompression Sickness

Oxygen Toxicity

The Underwater Forensic Investigator

New Words and Concepts

Learning Outcomes


Beginning Perspectives

Standardized Selection and Operations

Swimming Skills

Diving Skills

Incident Command Structure

Incident Commander

Dive Team Coordinator

Public Information Officer

Incident Safety Officer

Team Structure

Dive Team Coordinating Board

Team Members

Team Leader



Intelligence Officer


Lift Specialists

Equipment Specialist


Medical Officer

Training Coordinator

The Law of Search and Seizure

New Words and Concepts

Learning Outcomes

The U.S. Constitution and Due Process

The Fourth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment

The Sixth Amendment

The Exclusionary Rule



Emergency Searches

Warrantless Searches Based on Reasonableness

Consent Searches

Plain-View Searches

Open-Field Exception

The Underwater Crime Scene

New Words and Concepts

Student Learning Outcomes


Search Briefing

Bottom Structure


Surf, Waves, and Tide

Perimeter Marking

Boat Searches

Search Patterns

Random Search

Sweep Searches

Parallel Searches

Circular Search

Snag Search

River Search

Relocating the Search Site


Temporal and Geographical Location of Evidence

Establishing a Reference Point

Crime Scene Measurements

Orienting Evidence

Grid Searches

The Underwater Crime Scene Sketch

Handling Evidence

The Press

Underwater Photography

New Words and Concepts

Student Learning Outcomes



Taking Pictures Underwater

Photographic Log

Video-Recording Log

Photographing the Underwater Crime Scene

Video Recording

Logging Photos

Medicolegal Aspects of Underwater Death

New Words and Concepts

Student Learning Outcomes


Unattended Water Deaths

Body Recovery

Identification of Submerged Bodies

Postmortem Changes


Algor Mortis

Rigor Mortis

Ocular Changes

Livor Mortis (Postmortem Lividity)

Errors in Interpreting Postmortem Changes

Postmortem Interval


Anthropophagi (Marine Depredation)

Antemortem, Postmortem, and Perimortem Injuries

Mass Disasters

Firearms Recovery and Investigation

New Words and Concepts

Student Learning Outcomes


Recovering Firearms

Firearms Investigation


Ballistics Testing

Weapon Identification

Firearm Identification

National Integrated Ballistics Information Network


Types of Firearms

The Firing Mechanism

Types of Bullets



Cartridge Cases


The Early History of the Examination of Firearms

Examination of Weapons

Examination of Bullets


Rifling Twists

Land and Groove Width

Bullet Comparisons

Examination of Cartridge Cases

Examination Objectives

Legal Aspects

Class Characteristics

Cartridge Evidence

Chain of Custody

Expert Testimony

Aircraft and Vehicle Investigations

New Words and Concepts

Student Learning Outcomes


Locating the Aircraft

Measuring the Debris Field

Handling Evidence

Aircraft Recovery

Vehicle Investigations

Vehicular Drownings

Vehicle Recoveries

Recovery Checklist

Vessel Recoveries

New Words and Concepts

Student Learning Outcomes


Nautical Terms and Measurement

Contents xi

Boat Accident Investigation

Propeller Injuries

Boat Accident Report

Boat Data

Accident Data

Vessel Fire


Vessel Explosions

Arson or Detonation Checklist

Light Filaments

Preparing Dive Teams for Major Investigations


New Words and Concepts

Student Learning Outcomes


Dry Suits

Dive Helmets

Tether Harnesses

Buoyancy Control Devices


Lifting Buoyancy

Alternative Air Supply

Face Masks

Regulators, Gauges, and Computers

Diver: From Top to Bottom

Support Personnel

Review Questions


Diving in Contaminated Water

New Words and Concepts

Student Learning Outcomes


Biological Contaminants

Chemical Contaminants

Contaminated Water Equipment

Using Experts and Evidence in the Courtroom

New Words and Concepts

Learning Outcomes


Preparing for Trial


Chain of Custody



Diagrams, Maps, Plats

Video Recordings

Physical Evidence

Multiple Predicates

The Underwater Investigator as an Expert Witness

Scientific Evidence

Defense Lawyers, Prosecutors, and Investigators

New Words and Concepts

Student Learning Outcomes


Defensive Burden

Affirmative Defenses

Defense Strategies

Suppression Hearings

The Prosecution



In-Court Identification

Elements of the Offense

Testimonial Devices to Avoid the Truth

Error-Free Investigations

Ethical Testimony


About the Author

Professor Becker completed his studies for a Bachelor of Science degree in Police Science at Sam Houston State University in 1969. He went on to finish his Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Texas Agricultural & Mechanical University in 1972. A short hiatus from higher education found him with The Mineral County Montana Sheriff’s Office culminating his work there as a criminal investigator and leaving for St. Mary’s Law School in 1981.

Upon completion of his law studies and passing the Texas Bar Examination in 1983, he became a partner in the general litigation firm of Gish, Radtke, and Becker in Boerne, Texas. The firm became a successful personal injury litigation practice. During that time, Professor Becker served as the Boerne Municipal Court Judge, County Judge, and Juvenile Court Judge.

In 1991, he began a teaching career at Texas State University in the Criminal Justice Department. In 1994, he created a facility for training public safety divers in underwater investigation based on a forensic protocol. As director of the Underwater Institute, he started the Texas State University Underwater Institute’s Annual Public Safety Diver Seminar and Competition. This annual event drew recovery divers from all over the country and was held at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, each year during Spring Break.

As a tenured Full Professor, he has published four books and four editions to this criminal investigation text. During his tenure, he has published numerous articles and textbook chapters.

Ron began work at Chaminade University on July 8, 2002 as Chair for the Criminology and Criminal Justice Program. Since that time, he has streamlined the graduate and undergraduate curricula, created an on-line Masters of Criminal Justice Administration tract and a MSCJA specialty tract in Homeland Security as a Partnership School with the Naval Post Graduate School. He was promoted to full professor in the fall of 2006. He has worked as an underwater recovery consultant for the Honolulu Police Department and the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Each summer he conducts a workshop in "Underwater Forensic Investigation". Professor Becker is a member of the Hawaii Emergency Preparedness Executive Consortium and an advisory board member for the Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Forensic Science