Sheriff's Office

Toxicology Section

Brad Taylor, 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" or "drug-facilitated sexual assault" investigations.


The Forensic Science Division (FSD) provides kits for the collection and submission of specimens for toxicological analyses. These kits contain all the materials and seals necessary for proper collection and submission. There are detailed instructions in each kit. There are different kits for blood and urine. Blood kits contain the blood collection tubes recommended for blood alcohol testing.  These tubes contain both an anti-coagulant and a preservative needed to maintain the sample as whole blood. 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 in appropriate packaging, sent by courier, 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.

For any forensic toxicology submissions to WCSO-FSD we will require the following to be legibly printed on the outside of the box:

  • Subject
  • Agency, Case No., Item No.
  • County of Incident, Officer
  • Collection Date and Time
  • Testing Requested (Alcohol and/or Drugs)

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.


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

Toxicology samples will be returned to all other agencies after the completion of testing.


All specimens submitted to the Toxicology Section for Drugs testing will be screened for the following drugs or drug classes:

  • Amphetamine
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Cocaine
  • Fentanyl
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opiates

Based on the drug or drug classes indicated, the following tests may be assigned to confirm the presence of the compounds listed below: 

  • Sympathomimetic Amines Compounds
    • Amphetamine
    • Methamphetamine
    • Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA)
    • Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)
  •  Benzodiazepines Compounds
    • Alprazolam
    • Alphahydroxyalprazolam
    • Clonazepam
    • 7 – Aminoclonazepam
    • Diazepam
    • Nordiazepam
    • Lorazepam
    • Midazolam
    • Oxazepam
    • Temazepam
    • Zolpidem
  • Cocaine Compounds
    • Cocaine
    • Benzoylecgonine (Cocaine metabolite)
  • Opiate Compounds
    • 6 – Acetylmorphine (Heroin metabolite)
    • Codeine
    • Morphine
    • Hydrocodone
    • Hydromorphone
    • Methadone
    • Oxycodone
    • Oxymorphone
    • Fentanyl
  •  Cannabinoids Compounds
    • Delta – 9 – Tetrahydrocannabinol (Marijuana)
    • 11 – nor – 9 carboxy – delta – 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (Inactive marijuana metabolite)
    • 11 – Hydroxy – Tetrahydrocannabinol THC (Active marijuana metabolite)


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

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


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


The sample can be returned to the submitting agency for submission to a laboratory of their choice. Please contact the laboratory at or at (775)-328-2800 if additional testing is required.