Pinellas County Forensic Lab - Frequently Asked Questions
- What is forensic science?
- What role does the forensic lab play in an investigation?
- What education and training do I need to become a forensic scientist?
- How long does forensic analysis take?
- Who can submit items for analysis?
Q: What is forensic science?
A:Forensic science is the application of science to the law. Forensic laboratories provide scientific analysis to aid in investigations. There are many different forensic disciplines. PCFL conducts seized drug analyses, fire debris analyses, DNA analyses, and toxicology analyses. Other laboratories operate forensic units in digital evidence, firearms, latent fingerprints, and explosive analyses.
A: Forensic science is a tool to the investigator. Contrary to popular TV shows and other works of fiction, forensic scientists do not “solve” crimes. Evidence is submitted for scientific analysis based on the circumstances of the case. The investigator is provided the results of that analysis and uses that, in conjunction with other information gathered in the course of the investigation.
A: All laboratories have different requirements for employment, however, in general, and at PCFL, analysts must possess a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in a natural science (chemistry, biology, physics) or forensic science. Additionally, most disciplines at PCFL require a minimum of 30 hours of college level chemistry credits. DNA analysts are required to have college level coursework in biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology and statistics. PCFL has an extensive in-house training program specific to each analytical discipline.
A: The turn-around-time (TAT) for forensic analyses is very case dependent. Simple, one-item cases can be completed and released in a matter of a few days from the date of submission. Extremely complex cases may require weeks of analysis. The laboratory successfully maintains a goal of maintaining an average turn around time in each section of less than 30 days.
A: Any public law enforcement or fire agencies operating within Pinellas County can submit evidence to the laboratory. The laboratory cannot accept evidence from non-criminal justice organizations.