Evidence Section

Main Phone: (775) 328-2800
evidence@washoecounty.us

The Evidence Section of the Washoe County Sheriff's Office is responsible for all evidence submitted for forensic science division examinations. Evidence is received from more than 80 law enforcement agencies. The Evidence Section receives blood and urine for toxicology, narcotics for drug analysis, weapons for firearms testing, and clothing for trace and serology examination. Evidence is also submitted for DNA testing, fingerprinting, toolmark testing and shoeprint comparison. Additionally, the Evidence Section is the main repository for all Divisions of the Washoe County Sheriff's Office. On average, the Evidence Section completes over 50,000 transactions each year, from receiving evidence to temporarily releasing evidence for examination and returning completed evidence to the submitting agency and retention records for the Sheriff's Office.

Evidence must be submitted to the FSD through the Washoe County Sheriff's Office Evidence Section. It is the responsibility of the Evidence Section to ensure that all evidence is submitted correctly.

  • All packages must have a chain of custody with contents accurately listed
  • All packages must be properly sealed with evidence tape and initialed
  • A completed laboratory examination form stating, which tests are being requested, must be included
  • A synopsis of the case must be included
  • All money must be counted prior to submission
  • All biological evidence must be in a dried condition
  • All plant material must be in a dried condition

When evidence is submitted through the mail, it must be properly packaged (see "Evidence Packaging" section) beneath the exterior wrapper, and may be sent to the address below by any of several carriers (U.S. mail: certified, registered, or overnight; FedEx; or UPS) according to the submitting agency's policy. (Please refer any questions concerning the mailing of evidence to your local district attorney's office).

Washoe County Sheriff's Office Evidence Section
911 Parr Boulevard
Reno, NV 89512-1000

Properly packaged evidence may also be submitted in person through the Evidence Section's locker room. The locker room may be accessed through the "EVIDENCE" door near the prisoner intake area, which is located to the rear of the Sheriff's Office. With proper identification, a key to the "EVIDENCE" door may be signed out at the Sheriff's Office Front Desk (staffed daily from 0700 until 2230 hrs.) or the Detention Facility Central Control.  After entering the "EVIDENCE" door, continue through the door to your left, into the locker room.

 Once inside, you will find instructions and some of the materials necessary to be sure that your evidence is properly packaged and sealed. Remember, all evidence must include a chain of custody and a properly completed EXAMINATION REQUEST FORM. When your evidence is ready to be placed into a locker, simply open the locker door, place the evidence into it, close and lock the door, remove the key, and place the key into the KEY DEPOSIT TUBE, located near the locker area.

Our largest locker measures approximately 45" wide, by 22" deep, by 17" high. If your evidence item does not fit into that space, must be maintained frozen, or it is in a stage of advanced decay, then the evidence must be brought in during our regular business hours.

 Examination Request Form (pictured above):

The Examination Request Form (S-168) is a three (3)-part form, which is normally located in a drawer of the workbench in the evidence locker room. Blank forms can be sent to agencies upon request. Please write neatly and press firmly (3 copies). If the request is not legible it will delay the processing of the evidence.

One form must be completely filled in and attached to each package submitted to the FSD, except for Toxicology samples. (Please do not submit an Examination (S-168) Form for Toxicology services. See the Toxicology section for detailed information on submitting toxicology samples.) The contents of each package must be carefully described and itemized; and terms such as "few", "numerous", "miscellaneous", "several", and other similar descriptors will not be accepted. Packages with these vague types of descriptions will be returned un-opened to the submitting agency, with a request for proper itemization and re-submission for examination.

Swabs for DNA should be identified. Please do not mark as “swabs” or “buccal swabs”. They should contain a description of the item that was swabbed or the subject’s name(s) in the description line.  Please insert the name, e-mail, and telephone number of the case agent in the "OFFICER REQUESTING" section, so that we may contact that person directly should additional information be required.

Under the "EXAM REQUESTED" section of the form, please clearly mark each examination you would like conducted on the item(s). If the item(s) will require several exams, mark each type of exam required. If one of the exams is more important to your case than another, such as fingerprints being more important than other analysis in a case, please use the "NOTES, SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS" section to advise the FSD of that fact. You may also use this section to advise the lab of any special circumstances such as court dates, results of exam needed for warrant request, or a synopsis of the case. A case synopsis or a copy of your report attached to the Examination Request Form will usually answer any questions and expedite the examination.

Each package submitted to the lab must have a CHAIN OF CUSTODY attached. It may be pre-printed on the container, or it may be printed on a separate form and then attached to the container. For your convenience, a chain of custody has been printed on the back of the hard copy of the Examination Request Form. Please use it if you have no other, or if you have run out of signature spaces on yours.

If evidence is re-submitted to the FSD, the original chain of custody should be continued. If the chain is transferred to another form, that fact should be noted at the end of the original form. Please do not package the original chain inside the container. When the Examination Request Form has been completely filled in, keep the yellow copy for your case records, attach the remaining blue and white copies to the appropriate package, and place the package into a locker. To help simplify your submissions, the Evidence Section can supply you with extra forms, which may be completed in advance.

Evidence Packaging:

Labeling, packaging and sealing of evidence are the responsibility of the submitter.  If evidence is delivered to the Division in a condition not meeting this policy, it is usually the responsibility of the submitter to correct the deficiency prior to acceptance of the evidence.  Unsealed evidence will be returned.

As custodians of your evidence, we want to ensure your items have a solid chain of custody, if it should ever be questioned in court.  This requires certain elements to exist when receiving an item.  The following steps must be followed before an item can be accepted into the evidence section.

  • A package is considered properly sealed only if its contents cannot readily escape; and entering the container results in obvious damage/alteration to the container or its seal.
  • Proper seals may be accomplished in various ways such as heat seal, tape seal, and lock seal. All seals must be initialed or otherwise marked to document the person sealing the evidence. Tape seals will be initialed across the tape onto the item.

Acceptable Seals

  • Evidence Tape
  • Packaging Tape
  • Heat Seal

Unacceptable Seals

  • Masking Tape
  • Scotch Tape
  • Staples
  • Twist Ties
  • Zip-Lock Bags

Items Requiring Special Handling

  • If the contents of the package require special handling, such as a loaded gun, bio hazardous materials (bodily fluids), items to be fingerprinted, etc., special alert labels must be placed in a prominent area of the package. These labels are kept in the storage drawers of the workbench in the evidence locker room.
  • The evidence section will not accept dangerous items/chemicals, except that a small sampling may be accepted for testing purposes.
  • Explosive material will not be accepted without authorization from supervisory personnel.
  • Hypodermic devices, needles, and similar items are not routinely accepted. If an examination of these items is absolutely necessary, prior permission to submit the items must be obtained from the Laboratory Director, or their designee. With this permission, the items must be packaged in special puncture proof containers with the proper warning labels attached. The containers and labels are available from the Evidence Section. Alternatively, the contents of a hypodermic syringe can be emptied into a suitable glass or plastic vial prior to submission to the lab for testing.
  • Sharps and glass fragments must be rendered safe before placing them in a paper bag.  A box is preferred packaging for knives and other sharp items.  If the item is contaminated with blood or other bodily fluids, the item must exhibit two warnings: one which relates to the SHARP item, and one which relates to the BIOHAZARD.
  • Loaded firearms will not be accepted.  Special case circumstances requiring submission of a loaded firearm will be evaluated by the Section Supervisor.
  • Suspected marijuana that has visible signs of mold will not be analyzed as the mold associated with the marijuana is a known carcinogen.  If wet plant material is recovered, e.g., live plants, it is critical to completely dry the plant material prior to packaging it, even if it will be packaged in cardboard boxes or paper bags.
  • Clandestine laboratory materials will not be accepted without authorization from supervisory personnel.
  • Biological materials:
    • It is the responsibility of the submitter to ensure that stains are dry prior to submission.
    • Items should not be packaged while still wet or moist.  Thoroughly dry all stains and then place the evidence in paper bags, envelopes, or boxes.  DO NOT place evidentiary samples in plastic bags or containers as this promotes degradation.
    • Storage and preservation of evidence of a biological nature returned to a submitter is the responsibility of the submitter.

 Proper evidence packaging begins when the items are first collected. Ideally, each item should be packaged separately and then the packages destined for similar examinations may be grouped into one sealed evidence container. For example, the clothing from a suspect consists of “1-pair of shoes, 1-pair of socks, 1-pair of under shorts, 1-t-shirt, 1-pair of jeans with a belt, and 1-jacket”. These items should be packaged in six individual packages, with only the jeans and belt in the same package. The packages may than be placed into one larger container which is properly sealed and labeled, and has the evidence chain of custody and Examination Request Form attached.

The following information must be noted on each package submitted:

  • The name of the submitting agency;
  • The case number;
  • A description of the contents; and
  • The date, time, and the location from which the evidence was collected.

Evidence Viewing:

While the Division does perform work for agencies other than Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, it is our policy to offer viewings of evidence from Washoe County Sheriff’s Office cases only. Evidence that needs to be viewed from external agencies will be released to that agency.

Due to the evolution of testing for biological evidence, it is difficult to determine what items are of biological evidentiary value and what items are not. Therefore, all evidence viewings will take place in the Primary Examination Biology laboratory unless a written agreement is provided by the prosecution and defense stating that the items requested to be viewed have no biological evidentiary value. Viewing of agreed upon non- biological evidence can take place outside of the primary examination biology laboratory.  Individuals viewing evidence in the Primary Examination Biology laboratory will wear proper protective apparel, follow all provided safety instructions, and will also provide an oral swab sample. A DNA profile will be developed from this sample and it will be added to the DNA contamination exclusion log. This log is for internal use only and will not be released outside the Division. All casework unknown profiles are compared to the DNA contamination exclusion log prior to entering them into the CODIS DNA database. The purpose of this process is to eliminate known DNA profiles from being uploaded to the national DNA database.  A sign in log will be prepared to record all individuals participating in the viewing.  This log will include the WCSO agency case number and Division laboratory number. The log and the list of items viewed will be stored with the case file as administrative documentation. Typically an evidence viewing is managed by two Evidence Clerks with a WCSO detective and possibly a biology staff member present. Including the above listed individuals the maximum total number in attendance may not exceed eight.

An alternative to viewing evidence under the above conditions at the WCSO Forensic Science Division is to view crime scene photographs of the items.

If you have any questions regarding submission of evidence, please feel free to contact the Forensic Science Division at (775) 328-2800 or the Evidence Clerks in the Evidence Section at (775) 328-3060 or by email: evidence@washoecounty.us.

 

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