Forensic Sciences Division

Chemistry Unit

The Chemistry Unit analyzes suspected narcotic and drug substances submitted to the Crime Lab from the Sheriff’s Office and local law enforcement agencies in Palm Beach County and provides expert testimony in court proceedings. Drugs commonly encountered include, but are not limited to: cocaine, marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, pharmaceuticals or other substances that appear in the drug trade. In some investigations the Unit receives an unknown liquid or a food product to determine if it has been altered by tampering or possible poisoning. In these cases the chemist works with the investigator to determine if a specific contaminant is suspected and develop appropriate methods to analyze for that compound.

The Chemistry Unit also assists law enforcement by preparing drugs or “pseudo” drugs for use in “reverse sale” or sting operations and K-9 training.

Quality Assurance

The Quality Assurance Unit (QAU) is responsible for maintaining the accreditation status of the Technical Services and Forensic Sciences Divisions through auditing, inspecting and standardization utilizing the standards and criteria of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors / Laboratory Accreditation Board.  Accreditation allows the Divisions to demonstrate that its management, personnel, operational and technical procedures, equipment and physical facilities meet established standards.  The Divisions have held this accreditation since 1991.

Accreditation is one part of our quality assurance program which also includes proficiency testing, continuing education, testimony monitoring and a review system that aids the Divisions in providing better overall service to the criminal justice system.

System Administration
This QAU’s responsibility also includes administration, implementation and training for the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) and the e-Centron temperature monitoring system.

The administrative, financial monitoring and reporting of grants awarded to the Technical Services and Forensic Sciences Divisions are also managed by the QAU. Examples of grants managed by the unit include local, Paul Coverdell, DNA Backlog Improvement, and DNA Cold Case.

Safety and Security
The safety program within the Division ensures the proper environmental disposal of unwanted and expired chemicals and biohazard wastes and training of staff in the proper handling procedures when using these substances. The security program documents and limits access to high liability areas including evidence and analytical testing.

Forensic Biology

The citizens of Palm Beach County have been provided with state-of-the-art Forensic DNA testing capabilities for nearly a decade in the Sheriff’s Forensic Biology Unit of the Crime Laboratory. DNA is the genetic fingerprint that is unique to all individuals with the exception of identical twins and found in nearly every cell in the body such as skin cells, blood, semen, hair, and saliva. The laboratory conducts DNA analysis on crime scene evidence and criminal paternity evidence. Over the past decade, nearly a million dollars in Federal grant monies will have been awarded to the PBSO Forensic Biology Unit to enhance the facilities and improve the efficiency of the DNA testing process. The grant monies in combination with continued support from the Sheriff have dramatically increased the technical capabilities of the laboratory by offering state-of-the-art DNA analysis on hundreds of criminal cases a year. The addition of a county software database called “CODIS” (Combined DNA Index System) containing hundreds of DNA profiles from casework evidence has the ability to search millions of DNA profiles from convicted offenders and crime scene DNA profiles from all fifty states.

PBSO Forensic Biology Unit analysts are required by national standards to have a Bachelors of Science degree with extensive scientific coursework. DNA training takes approximately a year. Completion of the training program allows the analyst to conduct identification of biological stains on evidence, DNA analysis and reporting all findings. The section provides educational services to schools, civic events and law enforcement agencies.

The goal of the PBSO Forensic Biology Unit is to offer the highest quality forensic DNA testing program possible to the victims of criminal activity. This is accomplished through a collaborative effort with law enforcement and the judicial system by conducting analysis on probative evidence and testifying to the DNA results in court. In order to assure compliance with national DNA testing standards, the section maintains accreditation through the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board and the FBI National Forensic DNA Standards.

Toxicology Unit

The Toxicology Unit serves Palm Beach County residents by providing Forensic Toxicology services to some 30 state and local law enforcement agencies and universities.  Our primary responsibility is to assist state and local law enforcement in the investigation of DUI (driving under the influence) cases, DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) cases, and sexual assault cases.  This task is accomplished through analytical human performance toxicology services, the interpretation of analytical results, and case consultations.

Human performance toxicology services include the analysis of blood specimens for the presence and concentration of alcohol and drugs, and urine specimens for the presence of drugs. The unit also provides urine drug testing for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office random drug testing program, for-cause testing, court-ordered testing, and alternative custody program. Consultations and expert testimony are provided to county agencies and other groups on drug related issues.

The goal of the Toxicology Unit is to provide the citizens of Palm Beach County with the highest quality toxicology support services, consultations, and expert testimony available and to provide that service in the most timely, financially responsible manner possible.