Laboratory Sections

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BIOLOGY/ DNA AND DATABASING SECTIONS

The Biology/DNA Section of the laboratory is dedicated to identifying the source(s) of biological material from physical evidence submitted in criminal cases. DNA can be extracted from a number of different biological materials such as blood, semen, saliva, sweat, tissue, bone and teeth. Once a DNA profile is developed from the evidence, it can be compared to the known DNA profiles of all involved individuals. This comparison can result in a match between the evidence and an individual (inclusion), no match between the evidence and the individual (exclusion) or no conclusion if the condition of the evidence prevents the collection of sufficient information to render an opinion. Qualifying profiles generated from the evidence can then be entered into the DNA Database to determine if there is a match with evidence from another case or with an individual who was required to submit a DNA sample to the DNA database. The WV DNA database is a part of a national network called CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) which provides investigative leads to law enforcement concerning unsolved crimes as well as aids in the identification of unidentified human remains.

The Biology Databasing Section of the laboratory performs DNA testing on individuals who have been convicted of a qualifying offense for entry into the WV DNA Database.

EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS:

Baccalaureate degree in a biological, chemical or forensic science with science and laboratory-based coursework as integral components. A minimum of 9 cumulative semester hours in undergraduate or graduate courses in genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology are required as well as statistics and/or population genetics coursework.

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LATENT PRINTS SECTION

For full description and educational requirements​, please download the PDF linked above.



SEIZED DRUGS SECTION

The purpose of the Seized Drugs 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. Confirmation can be performed with different instruments, such as Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometer and the Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer.

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:

Baccalaureate or an advanced degree in a chemical, physical, or biological science or forensic science with 32 hours of chemistry course work to include Instrumental Analysis.



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:

Baccalaureate degree in criminal justice or other suitable degree or four years of full-time paid experience as a certified law enforcement officer, or equivalent experience in a related field.



BIOLOGY/ PROCESSING SECTION

The Biology/ Processing 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 Biology/ DNA Section for DNA analysis.

EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS:

Baccalaureate or advanced degree in a chemical, physical, or biological science or forensic science.



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, ​and shooting scene reconstruction/ trajectory analysis, and footwear/ tire impression examinations.

EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS:

Baccalaureate or advanced degree in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, forensic sciences, natural sciences, or related field.




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 and primer gunshot residue examinations. 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:

Baccalaureate or an advanced degree in a chemical, physical, or biological science or forensic science.



TOXICOLOGY SECTION

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

1. Ethanol/Other Volatiles analysis (Blood Alcohol Analysis)

Ethanol/Other Volatiles 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 ethanol/other volatiles. The evidence is received, an analysis is performed using Headspace Gas Chromatography with Flame Ionization Detector/Mass Spectrometer, 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 ethanol/other volatiles.

2. Drug Toxicology

If an officer suspects that a DUI suspect is under the influence of a drug, blood may be submitted for testing. The evidence is analyzed using Liquid Chromatography/ Mass Spectrometry/Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS/MS). A report is generated, and the evidence is returned to the arresting officer. If results are challenged in court, expert testimony is provided by the analyst.

EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS:

 

Baccalaureate or an advanced degree in a chemical, physical, or biological science or forensic science with 30 hours of chemistry course work to include Instrumental Analysis.​

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