Blood drips from injuries sustained during an International Fighting League match in New Jersey

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Blood Spatter

Blood behaves in much the same way as those spilled water droplets. A low-velocity spatter is usually the result of dripping blood. The force of impact is five feet per second or less, and the size of the droplets is somewhere between four and eight millimeters (0.16 to 0.31 inches). This type of blood spatter often occurs after a victim initially sustains an injury, not during the infliction of the injury itself. For example, if the victim is stabbed and then walks around bleeding, the resulting drops are a type of low-velocity spatters known as passive spatters. Low-velocity spatters can also result from pools of blood around the body of a victim and transfers (impressions left by weapons, or smears and trails left by movement). It can occur with some injuries, such as bleeding sustained from a punch.

A medium-velocity spatter is one that had a force of anywhere from 5 to 100 feet per second, and its diameter is usually no more than four millimeters. This type of spatter can be caused by a blunt object, such as a bat or an intense beating with a fist. It can also result from a stabbing. Unlike with a low-density spatter, when a victim is beaten or stabbed, arteries can be damaged. If they're close to the skin, the victim bleeds faster and blood can spurt from wounds as his or her heart continues to pump. This results in a larger amount of blood and a very distinctive pattern. Analysts call this phenomenon projected blood. If we're using the water example, a medium-density splatter might come from a high-powered squirt gun.

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High-velocity spatters are usually caused by gunshot wounds, although they can be caused by other weapons if the assailant exerts an extreme amount of force. They travel more than 100 feet per second and usually look like a fine spray of tiny droplets, less than one millimeter in diameter. Bullet wounds are unique because they can have both back and front spatters, or just back spatters. This depends on whether the bullet stopped after entering the victim's body or traveled through it. In most cases, the back spatter is much smaller than the front spatter because the spatter travels in the direction of the bullet.

Analysts always look for voids, or empty places in the spatters that indicate that something (or someone) caught the spatter instead of the surrounding surfaces. In the case of a high-density spatter, this may mean that the assailant got some of the victim's blood on himself or herself. Sometimes, a blood spatter can look like it was high velocity when it was actually a medium- or low-velocity spatter. Cast-off droplets can fall from larger drops of blood. A savvy analyst looks for larger drops of blood among the many tiny drops to see if they are castoffs. These types of droplets are also found often on places like ceilings when the rest of the spatters are concentrated elsewhere.

Blood spatters can also overlap each other, which can show which gunshot or stab wound took place first.

Size and the force of impact are only two aspects of determining information about blood spatters. Next, we'll look at the shapes of spatters and how analysts use strings, trigonometric functions and computer programs to map out a blood-spattered crime scene.