Crime Lab Services


The Evidence Unit is where all incoming evidence is received before continuing on to the unit performing the analysis.  Once received, each piece of evidence is logged into the system, assigned a unique laboratory case number, and then picked up by the corresponding analyzing units.  The Evidence Unit receives on average over 12,000 evidence submissions per year, ranging from a small clothing fiber to a large vehicle.

DNA and Serology (Biology)

When there is a request for the analysis and identification of biological specimens for homicides, burglaries, robberies, assaults, and arson, the Biology Unit steps in. Unlike some other laboratories, this unit works rape and sexual assault cases as well using DNA analysis. With the advancement of technology, the Biology Unit now has a tool, called STRmix, which allows for the analysis and deciphering of samples containing up to four-person mixtures. The Biology Unit can also utilize technology from an outside company to perform phenotyping on DNA from cold cases to reveal physical traits of the individual.

Comparative Evidence Unit

The Comparative Evidence Unit encompasses firearms, toolmark, footwear, and tire imprint and impression analysis. In this unit, the marks produced by these items are analyzed and compared to other evidence markings, to determine their origin. This unit also performs serial number restoration, sound suppressor evaluation, projectile velocity measurement, and determination of firing distance. Currently the Comparative Evidence Unit is participating in the FBI-Ames Laboratory Blackbox Study to further evaluate the reliability of firearms examiners in the analysis and comparison of cartridge cases and bullets.

Trace Evidence and Arson (Criminalistics)

The Trace Evidence Unit wears many hats, as it’s responsible for the examination and analysis of paints and polymers, tape, gunshot residue, hairs, fibers, and glass, as well as the analysis of fire-related debris from arson or explosives and road flare evidence. The laboratory is one of the premier labs for trace evidence and utilizes analytical instrumentation, such as the Laser Ablation ICP-MS for the analysis of glass, which is not found anywhere else on the West Coast.

 Drug Analysis (Chemistry)

Drug Chemistry involves the analysis and identification of chemical substances to determine if controlled drugs are present. For example, in the spring of 2016, the Drug Chemistry Unit was able to determine that the Vicodin tablets involved in more than half-dozen cases were actually a potent mixture of fentanyl and promethazine, similar to the tablets that killed the artist Prince. While the Drug Chemistry Unit identifies a large variety of drugs, about 80-85% of drugs received are identified as methamphetamine.

Alcohol and Drugs in Body Fluid (Toxicology)

The analysis of biological specimens for the presence of alcohol and drugs is conducted by the Toxicology Unit.  Samples requiring analysis come from a variety of cases including driving under the influence, sexual assaults, and coroner cases.  Historically, the Toxicology Unit analyzes over 5,000 cases involving driving under the influence of alcohol and over 3,500 cases involving driving under the influence of drugs per year.

Crime Scene

Lastly, the Crime Lab’s Crime Scene unit is comprised of Criminalists from throughout the various specialties within the lab. This unit supports law enforcement with the recognition, documentation, collection, preservation, examination, and interpretation of physical evidence at crime scenes. The duties of the Crime Scene team can range from performing a single task, such as using the Leica Geosystems ScanStation to create a three-dimensional scaled representation of the scene, to being asked to take control of a crime scene investigation entirely. Regardless of whether it is day or night, the Crime Scene team is ready and available to respond.