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Montezuma Quail Feathers. Credit: USFWS

Science Professionals

Cloud of particulates formed at firearm discharge to determine the distance a weapon was fired.
Cloud of particulates formed at firearm discharge to determine the distance a weapon was fired. Credit: USFWS


The Criminalistics Team consists of the Latent Print Unit, Firearms Unit and Trace Unit.  

The Latent Print Unit uses a battery of latent print enhancing chemicals which can be visualized using sophisticated light sources such as the Omnichrome Spectrum 9000. The discovery and identification of a latent prints on an evidence item, such as a beer bottle, is a class character analysis.  Determining that the latent print on the bottle was left by the suspect is an individualization analysis.

The Firearms Unit when analyzing a bullet takes into consideration many physical features left on a bullet (caliber, twist, land and groove width, etc.) and with this data can make an inference of what kind of firearm fired the projectile (class character analysis). Determining that a projectile was fired from the suspects’ firearm involves microscopic analysis using a comparison microscope.  For this individualization analysis, the Lab uses one of the following three microscopes:
  1. Leeds comparison microscope
  2. Reichert  comparison microscope
  3. Tescan Vega electron scanning microscope with a dual comparison stage

The Trace Unit is involved primarily in class character identification on items such as fibers, paint chips, and glass.  To gain the most information from trace evidence this unit has several non-destructive analytical instruments such as microscopes, XRF by EDAX for elemental analysis, and Nexsus 470 FT-IR by Nicolet for molecular inferences.

For more information, please view our Criminalistics publications, Shot Pellet Identification Guide, and Neural Time-Of-Death Identification Guide.


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