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Frequently Asked Questions

General SDFL FAQ

Q: Does the SD Forensic Lab accept civil cases?

A: No. The SD Forensic Lab accepts criminal cases.

Q: Is there a fee for service charged by the SD Forensic Lab?

A: No. There are no direct fees charged to the submitting agency for analytical testing or expert court testimony.

Q: As the investigating officer, do I send the evidence for drug analysis to your lab?

A: No. The DCI Forensic Laboratory does not perform drug analysis. This evidence must be sent to the State Health Lab for analysis. They can be reached at 605-773-3368.

Q: Can you do exams for the private citizen (i.e. paternity testing etc.)?

A: No. According to State statute, this laboratory can accept evidence from only law enforcement.

Evidence Intake FAQ

Q: What are the hours of evidence intake at the SDFL?

A: Please notify the evidence section to the submittal of evidence at (605) 773-7843. The hours for personal delivery intake are Monday - Thursday, 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The hours on Friday are 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. After hours evidence locker delivery is available. The appropriate paperwork must be placed in the locker with the evidence. Contact the building security for access to this area.

Q: What is the protocol for submitting evidence?

A: Evidence must be prelogged into the BarCoding, Evidence, Analysis, Tracking and Statistics (BEAST) lab management system prior to submittal. To prelog evidence, you must first apply for a Regional Information Sharing System (RISS) account at http://apps.sd.gov/dci/RISS/. (If you have a previously established RISS account, you are still required to reapply for a new password). Prelogging instructions will accompany the RISS account information to you via email. For any questions regarding prelog, please contact the evidence section at (605) 773-7843.

Q: How do you package the firearms for examination?

A: Use the appropriate weapons packing evidence container. The firearm must preferably first be made safe by inspecting the chamber for any rounds*. Remove the magazine and any rounds in the chamber. It is not necessary to put a cable tie on the firearm, but if prefered, do not put the cable tie through the barrel, since this can possibly damage the grooves and lands inside of the barrel. Put the cable tie through the magazine well and the ejection port (pistol), or through one of the chambers of a revolver cylinder and the trigger guard (revolver). Refer to the evidence packaging manual on the website for further details.
*Use caution to preserve any Trace or Fingerprint evidence, if applicable.

Q: Do I need any specific software to run the BEAST from my office computer?

A: Yes. You will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader version 8 or greater installed on your computer. If you do not, please go to www.adobe.com and download and install the newest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader available.

Q: What additional paperwork should accompany the evidence?

A: A copy of the offense report and any appropriate search warrants and/or consents to search are required.

Q: Will I receive the Results of Examination at my mailing address?

A: Results of Examination can be downloaded to your computer immediately through your RISS account.

Q: Will any evidence containing child pornography be returned to me?

A: See SDCL 22-24A-15 for state forfeiture laws.

Forensic Biology FAQ

Q: What is the difference between semen and seminal fluid?

A: Semen is made up of both seminal fluid and sperm cells. Seminal fluid is the liquid portion of semen only and no sperm cells are present.

Q: What is a sperm cell fraction/non-sperm cell fraction?

A: A sperm cell fraction results when a stain containing semen undergoes a procedure that separates the sperm cells from other bodily cells that are present. The sperm cell fraction will contain the majority of the sperm cell DNA present while the non-sperm cell fraction will contain the majority of other cellular DNA (non-sperm cells) present in the sample.

Q: What is DNA?

A: DNA is the primary carrier of genetic information passed from parent to off-spring. Contains all genetic information for an individual.

Q: What is DNA testing?

A: DNA testing is testing to determine the DNA types in a sample for comparison to the DNA types in a known reference sample.

Q: What can be tested?

A: Any biological material that contains cells with a nucleus.

Q: How should samples be collected?

A: All samples should be collected using appropriate collection procedures to avoid sample destruction or degradation. Biological material is best preserved in a dry, cold environment. All items should be packaged separately into paper bags or envelopes. For more information on collecting and packaging biological samples, please visit the following website: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/lab/handbook-of-forensic-services-pdf/view

Q: What is a known reference sample/ buccal swab?

A: A sample collected from an individual that is used to determine the DNA types of that person. Most common is a buccal sample.

Q: How should a known reference sample/ buccal swabs be collected?

A: A buccal sample is collected by rubbing a sterile swab against the cheek inside the mouth thereby transferring cells from the lining inside the mouth to the swab.

Q: What type of DNA test is performed?

A: Short Tandem Repeat, or STR testing.

Q: How long will testing take?

A: Testing can generally be performed within 75 days of the lab receiving the items. This can vary depending on the amount of current casework already at the lab.

Q: How specific are DNA matches?

A: If results are obtained from all 24 of the DNA locations we test for, we would not expect any individual other than identical twins to have the same DNA types.

Q: What can be done with mixtures of DNA from two or more people?

A: An examiner may be able to separate a major and minor contributor, allowing for an inclusion or exclusion.

Q: Are samples consumed in the process of DNA testing?

A: The sample that is taken will be consumed. If an entire stain or hair needs to be consumed, the examiner will fill out a Consumption Letter and send it to the attorney prosecuting the case to sign.

Q: Should cases without suspects be submitted?

A: Yes, cases without identified suspects or cases where a known reference sample from the suspect cannot be collected will still have DNA testing performed and if appropriate searched against the DNA database.

Q: What is Y-STR testing?

A: DNA testing on short tandem repeat locations present on the Y-chromosome only.

Q: What qualifies as a CODIS eligible DNA profile?

A: A DNA profile becomes CODIS eligible when it is obtained from biological material collected from a crime scene and is attributable to a presumed perpetrator.

To assist the laboratory in determining whether a submitted item may be eligible for CODIS, the laboratory requests that submitting agencies provide a specific description of where the item was collected and to whom the item belongs if known. This description should be recorded on both the outer packaging of the item as well as the evidence pre log. Until this information is provided by the submitting agency DNA profiles may NOT be eligible for entry into CODIS.

Providing sufficient detailed information about a submitted item will expedite its entry into CODIS. The following list shows descriptions of preferred wording to use when submitting items for DNA testing:

  • “The swab of blood was collected from the point of entry/exit at the burglary scene.”
  • “The cigarette butt was collected from inside the burglary victim’s residence. The victim is a non-smoker.”
  • “The suspect’s mask was collected from the path of exit from the bank.”
  • “The beverage container was collected from inside the victim’s vehicle. The beverage container does not belong to the victim.”
  • “The gloves were collected from inside the victim’s residence. The gloves do not belong to the victim.”

Additionally, please describe any known relationships between the victim and suspect (husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc). Submitting agencies are encouraged to provide this information in the "Case Comments" section of the pre log.

Q: What items are ineligible for CODIS entry?

A: Please be aware that some items submitted for DNA testing may not be eligible for entry into CODIS. To become eligible for CODIS an item must be collected from a crime scene and also be attributable to a presumed perpetrator. The following are examples of submitted items that would not be eligible for CODIS:

  • DNA profiles obtained from known reference DNA samples. Known reference DNA samples are items such as buccal swabs (note: buccal refers to the inner oral cavity) and blood cards collected directly from individuals believed to be involved with the case. Known reference DNA samples should be provided when possible for comparison purposes. However, because these items are not crime scene evidence they cannot be entered into CODIS.
  • A suspect puts out a cigarette in an ashtray at a restaurant and the cigarette butt is submitted for DNA testing. Assuming the suspect has not committed a crime while eating lunch, the cigarette butt is not crime scene evidence and therefore ineligible for CODIS entry.
  • A victim’s DNA profile is obtained from stains located on the suspect’s bloodstained shirt. This information may be of probative value for investigative purposes, but because the victim is not the presumed perpetrator for the case, the DNA profile obtained from the shirt is not eligible for CODIS.
  • A suspect’s DNA profile is obtained from bloodstains found on the suspect’s own item of clothing. Because the clothing was seized directly from the suspect, DNA profiles obtained from such items are not eligible for entry into CODIS.
  • An incomplete or “partial” DNA profile may be obtained from an item deemed CODIS eligible. However, because the DNA profile was not complete, there may not be been sufficient data to support entry into CODIS

Q: What is expungement?

A: Expungement is the removal of an offender DNA sample and DNA profile obtained from evidence samples from the DNA databank and DNA database.

Q: How do I get a sample expunged?

A: In accordance with SDCL 23-5A-29, a sample will be expunged after a receipt of a written request for expungement; certified copy of the final court order reversing and dismissing the conviction or delinquency adjudication; and any other information necessary to ascertain the validity of the request. The SDFL will expunge all DNA records and destroy the DNA sample unless the SDFL determines that the person has otherwise become obligated to submit a sample.

Latent Prints FAQ

Q: What is friction ridge skin?

A: Friction ridge skin is the skin that is on the palms and fingers of the hand and the soles and toes of the feet. Friction ridge skin has raised ridges and is designed for grasping and holding items. The ridges do not simply start on one side of the finger and travel to the other side of the finger but rather these ridges stop, start, and branch into multiple ridges to form unique and individual patterns. Friction ridge skin forms during fetal development, and except for changing in size due to growth, remains the same throughout a person's life until decomposition, barring any damage to the skin that causes scarring.

Q: What is a latent print?

A: A latent print is a chance reproduction of some area of friction ridge skin; by definition, "latent" means hidden or not visible. The pores at the tops of the friction ridges are constantly exuding sweat, which cover the friction ridges. When items are touched, this moisture, along with any other contaminates are deposited on the surface of the item in the pattern of the friction ridges, similar to a rubber stamp. Since the latent print is not visible some development processes must be used to make the latent print visible.

Q: How is a latent print made visible?

A: Through the use of crime scene lighting techniques, photography, and the application of chemicals, these impressions are enhanced so that the details of the print can be viewed. Chemicals used range from the standard black powder to specialized chemicals which react with amino acids in sweat, are specific to the sticky side of tape, or are fluorescent when exposed to particular wavelengths of light.

Q: What is a known print?

A: A known print is a deliberate reproduction of some area of friction ridge skin. This is most often done by applying printer's ink to the fingers or palm and placing them on a white fingerprint card, producing a reproduction of the friction ridge skin. They may also be made using Livescan, where the friction ridge skin is placed on a piece glass and a camera will capture the moisture left by the skin, creating an image of print. Known prints are also referred to as record prints.

Q: Why are fingerprints used for identification?

A: The two principles used for fingerprints as a positive means of identification are that fingerprints are permanent and unique. This means that an area of friction skin of an individual will not be duplicated on their own hands or feet, nor on any other person's hands or feet.

Q: Do people always leave fingerprints when they touch something?

A: No. Many factors determine whether or not a latent print will be of sufficient quality for comparison. These factors include: the condition of the surface, the presence of a substance on the friction skin, environmental and physical conditions the latent is subjected to after deposition, and the nature of the initial touch.

Q: How long will fingerprints last?

A: There is no scientific way to know how long a latent fingerprint will last. Fingerprints have been developed on surfaces that had not been touched in over forty years; yet not developed on a surface that was handled very recently. There are a multitude of factors that affect how long fingerprints last. Some include the type of surface touched; the individual who touched it, and environmental conditions can have serious bearing on how long a fingerprint will last on a surface.

Q: Can you tell how old a fingerprint is?

A: There is no scientific way to date the age of a developed latent fingerprint. The only possible way to know the approximate age of a latent fingerprint is to know the last time the surface was thoroughly cleaned. Generally latent print residue will not survive a thorough cleaning, so if a latent print is developed it was probably deposited after cleaning.

Q: Do identical twins have the same fingerprints?

A: No. No one has the same fingerprints; although identical twins have the same DNA, they have different fingerprints.

Q: Can an item be examined for both DNA and fingerprints?

A: Yes, together a DNA and Fingerprint Examiner will look over the item and determine which surfaces would yield the best results for DNA or Fingerprints. In most cases, both exams can be completed on the same item. The RUVIS is a tool that may assist in determining whether latent prints are present prior to processing and if there are swipe markings which would be better utilized for DNA.

Q: What types of items can be processed for fingerprints?

A: Under the right conditions, latent prints can be recovered from almost any surface. As technology advances, the opportunities to recover latent prints from various surfaces has also advanced.