Toxicology Section

Karyl Brown, Supervising Criminalist
Main Phone: (775) 328-2800

The Toxicology Section performs examinations of biological fluids to detect and quantitate drugs and alcohol in law enforcement cases.  The Toxicology Section does not perform testing for "cause of death" investigations. 

TOXICOLOGY EVIDENCE/SPECIMEN SUBMISSION:

The Forensic Science Division (FSD) provides kits for the collection and submission of specimens for toxicological analyses. These kits contain all the materials, forms, and seals necessary for proper collection and submission. There are detailed instructions in each kit. There are separate kits for blood and urine. These kits are in full compliance with all requirements of the US Postal Service and express carriers for the shipment of biological specimens. The kits may be mailed, sent by carrier, or hand delivered to the FSD. There is a clearly marked drop box located in the Washoe County Sheriff's Office breath room. Kits may be placed in this drop box or in an evidence locker. It is not necessary to complete any additional submission forms when a toxicology kit is used.  When performing a collection please pay special attention to the following:

  1. Do not mix the contents of one kit with another. The box, the form, and the labels for the specimen all have the same preprinted control number. Mixing multiple control numbers on the case can seriously jeopardize the chain of custody and the identity of the specimen.
  2. It is recommended that three consecutive blood draws be performed in felony cases or when the sample is drawn more than two hours after the incident.  Ideally, these are made 30 minutes apart. Use a separate kit for each collection.  Alcohol testing will be performed on all three sample collections.  Drug testing, when requested, will be performed on the first sample that was collected.  Drug testing on the subsequent collections is of limited value and will not be performed. 

EVIDENCE RETENTION POLICY

Toxicology samples will be retained for a minimum of 13 months before being destroyed.  If it is necessary for a sample to be retained beyond this period, a written request must be submitted.

TESTING PROTOCOLS:

The following protocols are used to determine what testing will be performed:

  1. When an alcohol result of 0.090 g/100mL or higher is detected in non-felony cases, no additional testing for drugs will be performed unless specifically requested by the prosecuting attorney.
  2. When drug testing results in a per se violation no additional testing for non-per se drugs will be performed unless specifically requested by the prosecuting attorney.
  3. If both blood and urine samples are submitted and blood testing results in a per se violation or detection of a drug level that would affect driving, the urine sample will not be tested.  No further testing will be performed unless requested by the prosecuting attorney. 

ALCOHOL TESTING:

The Toxicology Section performs tests on blood and urine specimens for the presence of alcohol.  Whole blood is the preferred specimen for alcohol (ethanol) analysis. NRS 484.3833 states that blood cannot be taken if the suspect is a hemophiliac or is taking anticoagulants at the direction of a physician. If blood cannot be taken and a breath test is not an option, urine may be used for alcohol testing. If urine must be collected, it is recommended that the officer have the subject void, wait thirty minutes, and collect a second specimen. Submit the second sample to the laboratory for analysis. The second urine specimen can be more accurately correlated to a blood specimen.

The following volatile compounds are detected in the alcohol assay:

  • Ethanol (alcohol in alcoholic beverages)
  • Methanol
  • Isopropanol (rubbing alcohol)
  • Acetone

Method:  Headspace Gas Chromatography with flame ionization detection

DRUG TESTING CAPABILITIES:

The Toxicology Section performs tests on blood and urine specimens for the presence of the drugs. To prove impairment, a blood specimen is preferred.

The toxicology section has the capability to test for the following drugs:

  • 11-nor-9-carboxy-delta 9 THC (marijuana metabolite)
  • delta-9-THC (active component of marijuana)
  • 3,4 methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA)
  • 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or Ecstasy)
  • 6-acetylmorphine (heroin metabolite)
  • 7-aminoclonazepam (clonazepam metabolite)
  • alphahydroxyalprazolam
  • alprazolam
  • amphetamine
  • benzoylecgonine (cocaine metabolite)
  • butalbital
  • carisoprodol
  • clonazepam
  • cocaine
  • codeine
  • diazepam
  • fentanyl
  • hydrocodone
  • hydromorphone
  • lorazepam
  • meprobamate
  • methadone
  • methamphetamine
  • midazolam
  • morphine
  • nordiazepam
  • oxazepam
  • oxycodone
  • oxymorphone
  • phenobarbital
  • temazepam
  • zolpidem

Methods:  Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA), Gas Chromatography/Mass spectrometry, Liquid Chromatography/Tandem Mass Spectrometry

OUTSIDE LABORATORY TESTING (Including Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault Testing):

Additional testing beyond the services offered by the Forensic Science Division can be forwarded to National Medical Services (NMS) Labs - Willow Grove, PA. for analysis and expert witness testimony.  Additional fees may apply.  Alternately, the sample can be returned to the submitting agency for submission to a laboratory of their choice.  Please contact the laboratory at labclerical@washoecounty.us or at (775)-328-2800 if additional testing is required.

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