Forensic Investigation Section

Mike Lyford, Sergeant 
Phone: (775) 328-2824
mlyford@washoecounty.us

Crime Scene Processing

The Forensic Investigation Section is staffed by eight full-time investigators. The investigators respond to the following:

  • Homicide
  • Attempted homicide
  • Officer involved shootings
  • Questionable deaths with detective on scene
  • Kidnapping
  • Child abuse
  • Sexual assault with substantial bodily injury or unknown suspect
  • Battery with a deadly weapon with substantial bodily injury
  • Armed robbery with substantial bodily injury
  • Bank robbery with substantial bodily injury
  • Robbery, strong armed, with substantial bodily injury
  • Fatal traffic accidents when vehicular homicide is suspected
  • Homicide autopsy

They do not respond to non-major crimes such as burglary, recovered stolen vehicle, evidence collection from officer at hospital, consensual sexual cases, single vehicle fatalities or to collect a piece of evidence in the absence of a CSI officer.

Processing a crime scene may include the following areas: documentation through still or video photography,  collection, and preservation of evidence; latent fingerprint processing; Alternate Light Source (ALS) examinations; shoe, tire, and tool impression casting; crime scene rough sketches that are digitized for court presention diagrams;  and many others. The FIS Investigators are regularly and continuously trained in these areas, assuring a competent and thorough investigation.

Should you have a vehicle which requires processing, FIS has two equipped garage bays available, one of which is over-sized for campers, motorhomes, etc. The equipment available includes a car hoist, super glue tenting materials, trace evidence vacuums, packaging materials, and other necessary items.

The FIS is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Any requests for services outside of the Washoe County area must be directed to the FIS Supervisor. Several crime scene vehicles are fully equipped and ready to respond.  

Latent Print Processing

In addition to fingerprint processing at crime scenes, FIS also offers laboratory fingerprint processing of evidence collected and submitted by user agencies.

Latent Print Development:

While on scene, investigators utilize fingerprint powders, however more advanced fingerprint techniques can be utilized within the laboratory setting.  Advanced examination procedures used in the laboratory may increase the chances of finding fingerprints on individual items. The most commonly used method within the laboratory is Cyanoacrylate Ester Fuming or more commonly known as Super Glue Fuming. 

Please Note: The processes used in the latent print processw may permanently damage or contaminate the evidence submitted for examination. The owner of the evidence should be made aware of this fact prior to submitting it to the laboratory. In addition, if the evidence submitted is a hard, non-porous item, and you are requesting that it be "Superglued," the "SUPERGLUE YES___ NO___" section on the Examination Request Form must be checked "YES."  If neither section has been checked, the item(s) WILL NOT be "Superglued".  For further information regarding the "Superglue," or any other process, please feel free to contact an FIS Investigator at 775-328-2800.

 

 

Submission Of Evidence For Latent Print Processing

DO NOT process the item yourself prior to the submission.

Proper packaging of evidence will greatly enhance the probability of finding latent prints of value on the submitted item of evidence.  As moisture will destroy fingerprints, please package the evidence in paper bags, envelopes or boxes, and in a manner which will reduce the possibility that fingerprints may be lost while en route to the FSD. If you are sending numerous items, package each one separately so that they do not rub against each other or against the packaging material itself. Also, the items should not be allowed to roll back and forth, or become stuck to the inside of the package. If you are sending items such as "empty" beverage containers, be sure they are completely empty before packaging.  It only takes a small amount of liquid to destroy good fingerprints. If the liquid inside the container is evidence in your case, please take a separate sample from the container and submit it in another package. In addition, if the evidence you are submitting is very fragile, such as a fingerprint in blood on an item, it would be wise to photograph it, with and without a scale, prior to submission. Your good judgment may make the difference between finding prints of value and finding nothing at all.

 

 

 

Fingerprint Examinations And AFIS Entry

Kevin Byrne, Certified Latent Print Examiner 
Phone: (775) 328-3322
kjbyrne@washoecounty.us

The Forensic Science Division conducts the following with regards to latent fingerprint identification:

  1. Evaluate and compare all of your latent lift cards and reference prints.
  2. Search your latent prints in WIN/AFIS.
  3. Supply expert testimony in any court proceedings as required.
  4. Maintain a file of your latent fingerprint evidence.

WIN/AFIS is an acronym for Western Identification Network/Automated Fingerprint Identification System. WIN is comprised of the states of Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Alaska and Wyoming. They share a common database, and also have access to the databases of California. We also have the capability to search the FBI/AFIS database which includes all 50 states. While each state maintains its own records, the digital imagery of the fingerprint records are stored in a computer network for quick search and access to establish identity. Because of this system, it is now possible to arrest someone in Utah for loitering and quickly determine if he is the person wanted in Oregon for murder. Fewer individuals slip through the cracks of the system due to the ability to quickly search an individual's prints.

The WIN/AFIS system does far more than identify the individual you have in custody; it will also search the individual latent print that you develop from a crime scene. If you submit latent lift cards to this lab for evaluation and computer search, you can be assured that regardless of the type of crime, we will search any prints that are of value against the computer database. Palm prints can also be searched. The computer search is predicated upon a core/axis placement and minutia alignment, which must be determined by the latent examiner. The high tip area of the fingers, extreme side portions of the fingers, and second/third joints cannot be searched in the computer; however they can be manually compared to major prints submitted by the requesting agency.

The majority of latent prints developed at crime scenes that are submitted for comparison can be searched in the computer. If the search is positive and identification is effected, you will be notified and a report will follow. If no identification is effected, then the latent print will be registered in the "unsolved latent database" file. By registering a print, the print will be searched against future arrestees within the WIN network. The latent print will remain in the computer until it is identified or the statute of limitations has expired.

Please note: All latent prints which are sent to us for evaluation and entry into the WIN/AFIS computer will remain at the Forensic Science Division for the following reasons:  

  1.  If the print has been identified, we may have to make charted enlargements at a moment's notice.
  2.  If the print was not identified, then it will be needed for future comparisons should the computer register a candidate.

All latent prints which are sent to the Forensic Science Division are filed by lab number and cross-referenced to an agency and agency case number.  At the present time, latent fingerprints from the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Reno Police Department, Sparks Police Department, and Douglas County Sheriff's Department are maintained in this file. Should your agency wish to have us evaluate, search, and file your latent prints, simply forward each case attached to a completed Examination Request Form (S-168 4/92) and check the boxes "Evaluate and file" and "WIN/AFIS". Keep the yellow copy for your records. You will receive a report advising you of the value of the latent prints and any future work to be conducted.

If there is a suspect in the case, submit a ten print card along with your request.  If a ten print card cannot be obtained by the user agency the Certified Latent Print Examiner will contact the state repository.  In order for the Latent Print Exaimer to receive a ten print card from the state repository, all the suspect's demographic informaiton including their SID and FBI reference number if applicable is required on the Examination Request Form. 

 

 

Alternate Light Source (ALS) Examinations:

One of the procedures available through FIS is alternate light source examination. During an investigation, the following evidence may be located as a result of an ALS exam: semen; hairs; fibers; and/or injuries to tissue beneath the skin’s surface.

When evidence is submitted for latent fingerprint processing and a light source examination is used, the evidence may be "superglued" and then washed with a fluorescent dye stain. The evidence will be returned with the proper warning labels attached, in order to limit the possibility of an accidental exposure following latent print processing.

 

 

Photography Of Latent Prints:

Whether in the field or the laboratory, there are many instances in law enforcement which may require photographic documentation beyond the capabilities of the standard Crime Scene Investigator. The Forensic Science Division is equipped to handle such instances.

Photographs of shoe and tire impressions are best taken utilizing a camera systems with the capacity for large/detailed photographs (large format film or high megapixel digital camera); while bite marks, other injuries, and trace evidence such as hairs and fibers, should be taken with cameras equipped with lenses capable of focusing much closer than normal lenses. This helps reduce possible photographic distortions of the subjects.

Specialized equipment such as Alternate Light Sources or the Forensic Investigation Section's DCS4 camera systems may be needed to photograph some evidence items, while specialized techniques with normal camera equipment may be all that is needed to photograph others.

 

 

Impression Evidence:

Several forms of impressions/imprints may be left at a crime scene as evidence. Commonly encountered types include shoeprints and tire tracks.  Any time a harder object comes in contact with a softer object, an impression/imprint can be left. Impression/Imprint evidence must be documented first with photography. The photograph must be taken parallel to the impression/imprint using a scale, before methods such as casting, gel lifts, electrostatic dust lifts, etc. are attempted.

Photographs must be taken parallel to the impression/imprint using a scale in order for the laboratory to produce photographic prints at actual size for comparison purposes. Several photographs taken with oblique lighting from different angles will highlight potential unique characteristics of the impression/imprint.  These photographs can then be compared to standards obtained during the course of the investigation. The characteristics, which impart uniqueness to a shoe or tire begin in the manufacturing process and continue to be acquired through subsequent wear/use of the item. These individualizing characteristics typically take the form of cuts or gouges, air voids, wear patterns, manufacturing variations, etc.

The ranges of conclusions that can be drawn are dependent upon the amount of detail left in the impression/imprint at the scene, the quality of the photographs/lifts/casts as well as the uniqueness of the object making the impression/imprint.

 

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