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New technique to help police read "filed off" gun serial numbers

In any criminal investigation that involves a gun, the first step that police take is reading the serial number of that gun. However, in a number of cases police find that the gun's serial number has been erased. In such cases, police in Maryland and elsewhere often have to depend on federal forensic laboratories to determine a gun's serial number, if it has been filed off. Unfortunately, even these forensic labs are sometimes not able to find the actual serial number.

However, a new technique may soon change that situation. According to reports, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, who have been working on developing this new technique since 2013, believe that the technique, electron backscatter diffraction, or EBSD, may be more effective at revealing filed off serial numbers. Reports state that the method still needs to be refined, but that it should be sensitive enough to restore the serial number of a gun on which the number has been filed off completely. At present, forensic laboratories use the acid etching technique. However, that method is not able to restore the serial number every time.

In the event of an alleged crime that involves the use of a gun, police generally find suspects by tracking down the gun's owner. However, it is a common practice to erase the gun's serial number so that police are unable to track down the perpetrator. But, with technology becoming more and more advanced each day, police may have an easier time tracking suspects once the EBSD technique is implemented in Maryland and throughout the country.

In Maryland, unlawful gun possession or the use of a firearm in a crime is one of the most serious offenses a person can face, and people who are arrested for such offenses often face severe penalties. Moreover, with this new technique in the police's arsenal, it may become difficult for those people who are accused of a weapons crime to defend themselves in the eyes of the law. However, it is important to remember that whenever an individual is facing weapons charges, or any other charges of committing a crime, that person has the right to present a defense.

Source: The Washington Post, "Scientists develop a technique to find serial numbers that have been filed off," Ivan Amato, May 11, 2015

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Law Offices of
James N. Papirmeister, Esq.

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As Published in Washingtonian Magazine | Washington's Best Legal Minds | 2013