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Crime Lab

 

WEST VIRGINIA STATE POLICE

FORENSIC LABORATORY

 The West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory is an accredited, full service laboratory that performs specialized examinations on evidence that is collected during criminal investigations. Services are provided free of charge to all law enforcement entities operating within the 55 counties of West Virginia.

Laboratory Field Manual

Laboratory Philosophy Statements

Management

Laboratory management recognizes that the Laboratory is one element of a multifaceted "criminal justice system," and that scientific results generated by the Laboratory may be used by any element of that system.

Mission

It is the mission of the West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory to provide accurate and impartial scientific support services to all criminal justice agencies operating in the State of West Virginia.

Goal

The goal of the West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory is to generate accurate, impartial, and timely scientific examinations and opinions for the criminal justice system of the State in the interest of public safety.

Examinations and Functions

The Laboratory is composed of seven specialized sections that provide the following services:

  • Analysis and identification of controlled substances (Drug Identification Section).
  • Analysis, identification and quantification of ethyl alcohol, suspected alcoholic beverages, and blood alcohol content level. Analysis of urine and blood specimens for the presence of drugs (Toxicology Section).
  • Identification and comparison of paint, glass, and building materials. Analysis and identification of ignitable liquids in charred debris and other forms of evidence. Analysis and identification of gunshot residues (Trace Evidence Section).
  • Analysis of biological materials (Biochemistry Section).
  • Analysis, comparison, evaluation and verification of friction ridge skin impressions (Latent Prints Section).
  • Identification and comparison of tool marks, firearms comparisons, and distance determinations. Analysis of obliterated marks, fractured, cut, torn items, and impressions (Firearm/Toolmark Section).
  • Analysis and comparison of questioned documents. Analysis and comparison of footwear and tire tread impressions (Questioned Documents Section).

Laboratory Accreditation

Accreditation was first obtained by the Laboratory on September 26, 1994, through the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB). As a part of accreditation the Laboratory’s activities are monitored yearly by ASCLD/LAB. In order to maintain accreditation the Laboratory must comply with specific criteria relating to the Laboratory’s Management and Operations, Personnel and Physical Plant. The criteria and standards address laboratory administrative practices, procedures, training, evidence handling, quality control, analysis protocols, testimony, proficiency testing, personnel qualifications, space allocation, security, and a variety of other related topics. The Laboratory is audited yearly and inspected at five year intervals by ACSLD/LAB.

Laboratory Sections

Biology Section

Latent Prints Section

Drug Identification Section

The purpose of the Drug Identification Section is to analyze and identify any suspected controlled substances and precursor chemicals utilized to manufacture controlled substances that are submitted to the Laboratory from city, county, state, and federal police agencies.

Most evidence is analyzed in a two-step process. First, the substance is subjected to a series of preliminary tests. These tests give an indication of what the substance might be and suggest a path for further analysis. The second step is to confirm the identification of the substance. To do this, two different instruments are available - the Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometer and the Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer. Both are equally specific and either can be used for this identification.

Identification of suspected marihuana relies upon a series of tests. These tests, when used in combination, are considered a specific analysis to confirm the identification of marihuana.

Educational Requirements:

A Bachelor of Science Degree in a natural science with an emphasis on Chemistry is required.


Central Evidence Receiving Section

The Central Evidence Receiving (CER) Section provides a central location for the acceptance of physical evidence into the laboratory. As evidence is received, a unique case number is assigned and case submission information is entered into a Laboratory Information Management System. Evidence is stored in a secure location and distributed to forensic scientists for analysis or comparison. After completion, the items are returned to the investigating officer via CER.

Educational Requirements:

Graduation from an accredited four-year college or university with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or related field.
OR Four years of full-time paid experience as a certified law enforcement officer
OR Completion of two years (60 semester hours) of study in an accredited four-year college or university and two years of experience in work related to the Examples of Work as described above or to duties as described below.
OR A high school diploma, or its equivalent, and four years of experience in work related to the Examples of Work as described above or to duties as described.


Central Evidence Processing Section

The Central Evidence Processing (CEP) Section examines items of physical evidence for the presence or absence of biological material suitable for PCR-based DNA analysis. Submitted items typically include sexual assault kits, clothing, scene samples, or objects collected at crime scenes. Presumptive tests and/or confirmatory tests for body fluids such as blood and semen are performed and samples are forwarded to the Biochemistry Section for DNA analysis

Educational Requirements:

Applicants are required to have a Bachelor of Science Degree in the natural sciences or related fields with chemistry and biology emphasized.


Firearms / Toolmarks Section

The Firearm and Toolmark Identification Section of the laboratory examines firearms for operability, and examines and microscopically compares bullets, cartridge cases, and shotshells to determine if they were fired from or in a particular firearm. By test firing the firearm and recovering the known fired bullets and cartridge cases, a comparison can be made with the submitted evidence. The comparison is performed using a comparison microscope, which is basically two microscopes connected by an optical bridge that allows the examiner to view two objects simultaneously under the same magnification. This allows the examiner to view unique microscopic imperfections placed on the evidence and test fires by the firearm that fired them.

Another area of analysis is the examination and comparison of toolmarks left at a crime scene to determine if they were produced by a particular tool. For example, a pair of bolt cutters used to cut a lock at the scene of a crime will often leave unique microscopic striations and/or impressed defects on the lock's cut surface, that can later be used to identify the suspect's bolt cutters. Screwdrivers, pliers, crow bars, hammers and the like, can leave unique marks on surfaces at crime scenes.

Other examinations performed in the Firearm/Toolmark Section include, but are not limited to, examining and processing of obliterated serial/VIN numbers on firearms, motor vehicles and ATV's in order to restore them, examining clothing and other objects for gunpowder residue patterns or shot pellet patterns in order to determine the distance a firearm was from the victim/target at the time of the shooting, physical/fracture matching of pieces of objects to determine if they were at one time part of the same unit, and shooting scene reconstruction including trajectory analysis.

Educational Requirements:

Educational requirements for a position in the Firearm/Toolmark Section is a Bachelor of Science degree in the Natural Sciences. Four years of experience as a qualified forensic laboratory firearm examiner may be substituted for a Bachelor's degree.


Questioned Document Section 

The Questioned Document Section of the Forensic Laboratory is responsible for the examination of document evidence related to criminal investigations. These documents may include, but are not limited to, checks, withdrawal forms, credit card receipts, demand notes, suicide notes, anonymous letters, firearms transaction reports, insurance claim forms and prescriptions. Cases must be submitted to the Laboratory by a police officer.

Questioned documents will be compared to known standards to identify or eliminate a suspect by evaluating handwriting or hand printing, including letters and numerals. However, the scope of analysis is not limited to handwriting exclusively. Other examinations can identify or eliminate suspect typewriters, check writers and rubber stamps.

Many additional exams can be performed to give the investigator an important lead. For example, physical matches between torn papers can be made (this includes notebooks, wrappers or matchbooks). Watermarks can be examined to determine the date and or manufacturer of the questioned paper. Indented writings can be visualized with a piece of equipment called the Electrostatic Detection Apparatus (ESDA) resulting in an ESDA print. Questioned photocopies can be examined and linked back to a photocopier provided there are enough identifying features on the questioned copies and known samples are taken a short time after the questioned documents were made. Inks can be evaluated with differing wavelengths of light to determine if writing was added, or to visualize obliterated writing on questioned documents. Documents from computer printers can be classified as being produced from a dot matrix, ink jet or laser printer.

Educational Requirements:

Candidates for a trainee position as a Questioned Document Examiner must have obtained a four year Bachelor's Degree (preferably in the sciences). The trainee must then successfully complete an intensive two year apprenticeship training program. It is additionally required that after two years experience on the job, the Examiner must seek and achieve certification by the American Board of Questioned Document Examiners (ABFDE).


Trace Evidence Section

The Trace Evidence Section of the West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory is responsible for a broad area of forensics concerned with many scientific methods of analysis. The major types of analysis performed include fire debris analysis, gunshot residue examinations, glass comparisons and analysis, and paint comparisons and analysis. Various types of instrumentation are utilized in the section to perform such analysis, these may include a Scanning Electron Microscope, Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer, and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer.

Educational Requirements:

The requirements for employment in the Trace Evidence Section consist of a four year degree in a natural science or related field.


Toxicology Section

The duties performed by the Toxicology Section are separated into two primary areas: Blood Alcohol analysis and Drug Toxicology analysis.

1. Alcohol analysis

Blood/Urine alcohol analysis is performed by the Toxicology Section. Any DUI arrest may include a subsequent drawing of the suspect's blood, which may be analyzed for the presence of alcohol. The evidence is received, an analysis is performed using Gas Chromatography, a report is generated and the evidence is returned to the arresting officer. In the event that results are challenged in court, expert testimony is provided by the analyst. The Toxicology Section is also responsible for analyzing alcoholic beverages seized in illegal activity for the presence of alcohol.

2. Drug Toxicology

If an officer suspects that a DUI suspect is under the influence of a drug, blood or urine may be submitted for testing. The evidence is screened using Enzyme Multiplied Immunoassay Technique (EMIT) and positive results are confirmed using Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) or Liquid Chromatography/ Mass Spectrometry/Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS/MS). A report is generated and the evidence is returned to the arresting officer. In the event that results are challenged in court, expert testimony is provided by the analyst.

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