U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Research on Forensic Toxicological Laboratory Testing and Reporting Practices

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2020, $562,700)

In the area of drug testing, comprehensive and consistent toxicological data is needed to better inform our understanding of the potential of drug-impaired driving as a public health problem. It is also essential to increasing the effectiveness of law enforcement and adjudication efforts in drug-impaired driving cases and make America’s roads safer for the driving public. Until recently, there has been no systematic implementation of a set of guidelines for testing and reporting that public and private forensic laboratories should adopt.

To address this gap, an expert panel of toxicologists developed Recommendations for Toxicological Investigation of Drug-Impaired Driving and Motor Vehicle Fatalities (see Logan et. al, 2018, for the 2017 update). These recommendations provide guidance for forensic toxicological drug testing and reporting for all drivers, motorcycle and moped operators, bicyclists and pedestrians involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes, and all drivers who are arrested or convicted for impaired operations of motor vehicles, regardless of their tested Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) or Breath Alcohol Concentration (BrAC). They are voluntary guidelines (for the guidelines, see https://academic.oup.com/jat/article/42/2/63/4653729). These guidelines provide standardized lists of drugs, matrices (blood, oral fluid, urine, etc.), and cutoff levels for testing They include two tiers of drugs for testing: Tier 1 drugs (Table II in the guidelines) are drugs that are found throughout the country and that should be tested for in all jurisdictions; Tier 2 drugs (Table III in the guidelines) are less common or predominantly found in specific areas of the country, so they may only need to be routinely tested for in those localities or on a case-by-case basis.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences (OIFS) is the Federal government’s lead agency for forensic science research and development as well as for the administration of programs that facilitate training, improve laboratory efficiency and reduce backlogs. Their primary goal is to improve the quality and practice of forensic science through innovative solutions that support research and development, testing and evaluation, technology, and information exchange. OIFS' scientists collaborate with their peers from across the government, industry and academia. This ensures collaboration across the Federal scientific community. This also allows sharing of the issues faced by criminal justice policymakers and practitioners.

This IAA is to provide support to NIJ's efforts to evaluate the potential for implementation of guidelines for forensic toxicology laboratories.

Date Created: December 11, 2020