The Division has facilities in both Missoula and Billings. The Missoula facility houses the Medical Examiner, Toxicology, Chemical Analysis, Firearms/Toolmarks, Latent Prints, DNA/Serology, Quality Assurance, and Evidence sections. The Billings facility contains Medical Examiner, Chemical Analysis, and Evidence Sections. The following is an explanation of each section:
- Medical Examiner System: The system is a partnership between the Forensic Science Division’s medical examiners and coroners to promote the health, well-being, and safety of the citizens of Montana through education, service, and compassionate, professional death investigation. The medical examiners’ work helps determine cause and manner of death, identify bodies, document injuries, and detect the presence of disease.
- Toxicology Section: Toxicology staff members analyze biological samples for the presence of drugs, poisons, and other toxins in post mortem, DUI, sexual assault, and probation/parole cases. Scientists often assist coroners in determining the cause of death. A non-comprehensive list of drug screening testing that can be performed by the Toxicology Section can be found here: Montana Toxicology Drug Screening. The Breath Alcohol System maintains and certifies breath-testing instruments used to detect the presence of alcohol in DUI cases. The lab also trains officers in the proper use of the equipment.
- Chemical Analysis Section: Drug chemistry specialists analyze samples seized in cases involving dangerous drugs, contents of clandestine labs, gunshot residue, and other evidence.
- Firearms/Toolmarks Section: Scientists examine evidence such as weapons, ammunition, and toolmarks. Additional services include serial number restoration, fracture match comparison, and GSR distance determination.
- Latent Prints/Impressions Section: The latent prints section identifies, preserves, and compares skin impressions, including fingerprints, palm prints, and footprints.
- Serology/DNA Section: The Serology/DNA unit is responsible for the analysis of evidence from crimes against persons and property with the purpose of identifying and individualizing biological materials found as a part of that evidence. The Serology/DNA unit also participates in CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), the FBI’s national DNA database program. CODIS blends forensic science and computer technology into an effective tool for solving crimes by enabling federal, state, and local crime laboratories to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically, thereby linking crimes to each other and to convicted offenders.
- Quality Assurance Section: The Quality Assurance Manager is responsible for maintaining the Laboratory’s International Accreditation, including planning internal audits, implementing corrective actions, monitoring analyst proficiency tests, tracking testimony review, and facilitating annual surveillance visits and external assessments. Additionally, the Quality Assurance Manager fulfills all discovery requests for the laboratory.
- Evidence Section: Evidence intake is the gatekeeper for all submitted evidence. Evidence Technicians ensure that submission forms are filled out correctly and that all evidence is packaged and sealed properly to protect against loss or contamination.
International Testing Accreditation- Originally accredited in 2005 by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB), the laboratory successfully adopted the International Testing requirements ISO 17025:2005 and ASCLD/LAB International Supplemental Requirements in 2011. In 2019, the laboratory continued accreditation by International Testing requirements ISO 17025:2017 with the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB – https://anab.ansi.org/forensic-accreditation). Laboratory accreditation is a continuing process that involves a number of audits that review and evaluate management practices, personnel qualifications, technical procedures, quality assurance programs, and facilities. Forensic laboratory accreditation is voluntary, but is required to receive some federal funding. The following disciplines fall under this accreditation: Toxicology, Breath Alcohol, Chemical Analysis, Firearms/Toolmarks, Latent Prints, and DNA/Serology.
As a resource for Montana law enforcement, the Montana State Crime Lab has prepared an Evidence Collection Manual and a comprehensive Serology and DNA Evidence Collection Manual. These manuals provide law enforcement with information on the best practices when collecting evidence. Contact the laboratory with any questions regarding evidence collection.