Forensic Science Laboratory
Oakland County, MichiganSheriffForensic Science Laboratory

Forensic Science Laboratory


The Oakland County Forensic Science Lab is an internationally ​accredited laboratory​.  The laboratory is committed to providing our clients with quality services. The laboratory understands the importance of timely, courteous, and professional service to meet our clients’ needs. We consistently strive to provide relevant, accurate, and thorough service using scientifically valid procedures under the direction of accreditation, statutory, and regulatory requirements.

To this end, our mission is to provide our clients, the criminal justice system, and the individuals in the communities where we serve, the highest quality forensic services. This mission is accomplished through the timely collection and examination of evidence using established methods and procedures resulting in clear and objective interpretations of analytical finding​​​s. Our staff is dedicated to the professionalism, integrity, and ethics required to deliver reliable conclusions.

The laboratory is composed of the following sections, each section committed to the laboratory’s mission:

 

CRIME LAB PROCEDURES DOCUMENTS

CRIME SCENE PROCESSING UNIT

crimeScene.jpgThe Forensic Science Laboratory provides professional forensic analysis of physical evidence on a 24-hour, seven-day a week basis. To assist in making this possible, the laboratory operates a mobile crime laboratory that will respond to any crime scene.  The Forensic Laboratory Specialists collect, preserve and tag evidence, document the scene with photographs, video tape, crime scene sketching, and analyze evidence.

In addition to processing the scene of the crime, the Forensic Laboratory Specialists can also provide assistance in crime scene shooting reconstruction and blood spatter interpretation.

The Sheriff's Laboratory provides crime scene processing to any requesting agency in the county.  ​

BIOLOGY/DNA ANALYSIS

dnaHelix.jpgAs a solution to providing police agencies in our community with timely DNA testing services, Sheriff Michael Bouchard decided to enhance the capabilities of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Science Labora​tory.  He has embarked on an aggressive plan to build a state-of-the-art DNA laboratory.  To ensure his success, Sheriff Bouchard sought out the extensive experience and resources of the National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC).  NFSTC is a nationally recognized leader in forensic science development services.  NFSTC delivered a comprehensive DNA needs assessment and developed a strategic plan for implementing the DNA lab. 

The project site consisted of a four thousand square foot section of existing office space within the Sheriff’s Office.  Lab personnel in conjunction with County engineers developed laboratory construction plans.  The building of the structure was managed by Auch Construction.

The Sheriff’s DNA lab acquired advanced statistical and sample tracking software that will expand testing capabilities and reduce processing time. The lab completed DNA testing validation studies, a major milestone, and anticipates applying for accreditation early 2016. 

Check out a tour of our DNA Laboratory and Forensic Science Team below:

 
 

DRUG CHEMISTRY

drugChem.jpgThe drug chemistry section of the laboratory analyzes samples submitted by various law enforcement agencies located in Oakland County and the surrounding areas.  The drug chemistry section analyzes any substance seized in violation of laws regulating the sale, manufacture, distribution and use of controlled or illegal type drugs.  In order to perform this type of analysis, the laboratory must possess both a valid Controlled Substance Registration Certificate, issued by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and a valid license issued by the State of Michigan Board of Pharmacy.

The drug samples are tested to determine whether or not a controlled substance or an illegal drug is present.  Various plant materials (ex: marihuana, "spice"), powders (ex: cocaine, heroin), crystalline materials (ex: methamphetamine, MDMA, "bath salts"), tablets, capsules and liquids are tested on a daily basis at the lab. In addition, they have provided a quick response to customer needs by applying testing protocols for new drug substances like synthetic marijuana and various designer drugs and by developing processing plans in relation to medical marijuana.

To assist in their testing, drug chemists employ state-of-the art analytical instrumentation in the laboratory.  This provides broad testing capabilities for prescription drugs and illegal substances. Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) help chemists by producing a spectral representation of a substance at its molecular level.  Stereomicroscopic observations allow chemists to observe characteristics of marihuana plants too small to be seen by the unaided eye.  Microcrystalline tests produce unique crystal structures when various drugs are exposed to chemical reagents such as platinic chloride or gold chloride.

Once the testing is complete, the drug chemist will author a report detailing the results of testing.  They may be called upon to testify as an expert witness in a court of law regarding their findings.​

FIREARMS/TOOLMARKS SECTION

firearms.jpgThe Firearms/Toolmarks section of the laboratory analyzes firearm ammunition components (fired bullets, fired cartridge cases) to identify if they were fired from a specific firearm.  The barrel of a rifle or pistol is lined with spiral rifling called lands and grooves to increase the accuracy of a shot.   The rifling from the firearm is transferred onto the bullet as it travels down the barrel.  These lands and grooves contain individual characteristics that can be identified to a specific firearm.  During the firing process, the firing pin and the breach face of the firearm also leave individual characteristics on the primer of a fired cartridge case; these individual marks can be identified to a specific firearm. 

In addition to comparing ammunition components to firearms, firearm examiners conduct other firearm examinations that usually include the following:

  • Test firing firearms to determine if they function as designed by the manufacturer 
  • Examine clothing and other items for gunshot residues and/or shot patterns in an attempt to determine a muzzle-to-garment distance
  • Perform projectile trajectory analysis to determine the path of a bullet through space
  • Trigger-pull analysis
  • Determine caliber and manufacturer of ammunition components and determine the manufacturer or manufacturers of firearms that may have fired a particular bullet or cartridge case
  • Serial number restorations

An examiner utilizes IBIS (Integrated Ballistics Identification System) to link fired cartridge cases that may have been used in related crimes.  IBIS is a computer system that acquires and stores images of a fired cartridge case found at a crime scene or obtained from test fires. IBIS looks for similarities between the images and ranks likely candidates for matches, the firearm examiner must confirm a match on a comparison microscope.  

In addition to firearm related examinations, an examiner will look at toolmarks, footwear and tire tracks to determine if they can be linked to a specific source if distinguishing characteristics are present (ex: wear marks on a shoe tread).  They attempt to match striations (scratches) or impressions found in the tool mark to tests made with the suspect tool(s).  

The firearm examiner then author reports for all of their findings and can be called upon to give their expert opinion in a court of law.

LATENT PRINT UNIT

print.pngThe Latent Print Unit of the laboratory conducts scientific examinations in the area of friction ridge analysis. Friction ridge impressions can be left when a person touches an object with their hands or feet. The friction ridges that are invisible to the naked eye are called latent prints.  The objects are processed by the analysts to reveal the latent prints and thus locate any ridge structure present and preserve them for future examinations. 

Latent prints can be detected and developed using a variety of techniques such as chemicals, powders, lasers and alternate light sources.  Detected latent prints can be compared to the known impressions of an individual, due to the uniqueness, permanence, and arrangement of the friction ridges. 

Latent prints can also be searched through a computer database. The Latent Print Unit operates and performs quality control on a Cogent AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System). This system aids in the search for known finger and palm impressions which are then used in the comparisons and individualizations of latent ridge structure. The analysts then author reports for all of their findings and can be called upon to give their expert opinion in a court of law.

TOXICOLOGY UNIT

toxicology.gifThe Toxicology Unit of the laboratory performs presumptive-based testing on urine samples for the RESULTS Program. This testing includes screening for drugs of abuse and the alcohol metabolite ethyl glucuronide (EtG). 

Screening is performed using an immunoassay testing technique called EMIT (Enzyme Multiplied Immunoassay Technique) and utilizes cut-off levels in compliance with the Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals (MADCP) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  Scientific studies show that urine drug assays are among the most consistently accurate drug testing method in current use.

The analysis for drugs of abuse includes the screening of five classes of drugs: amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cocaine, marijuana and opiates. Urine alcohol testing screens for the presence of Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG), an ethanol metabolite that has been shown to be a sensitive and specific marker for alcohol consumption and can be detectable in urine for up to 80 hours after alcohol has been ingested. ​


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