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Firearms Examiner Training

Drug Evidence

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Drug Evidence

Syringe and proper packaging
Syringe and proper packaging
Image courtesy of Arrowhead Forensics (see reuse policy).

Drug evidence consists of legal and illegal chemical substances controlled by law. This evidence may include prescription medication.

The evidence may be relatively simple, as in the case of small amounts of powders or vegetable matter or may range in complexity to large-scale clandestine laboratories that manufacture illegal substances.

Drug evidence may be found in the following situations:

  • Possession of controlled substances, such as cocaine and heroin
  • Manufacture of controlled substances, such as methamphetamine
  • Cultivation of plants, such as marijuana and opium poppy
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia, such as pipes and syringes

Integrity and Safety


Evidence envelope
Evidence envelope
Tri-Tech Inc., Southport, NC (see reuse policy).

Drugs are generally stable compounds. Exceptions requiring special attention include cannabis vegetative material that must be kept dry to avoid molding (with the potential for production of toxic fungi) and drug laboratories with highly reactive chemicals.


Bloodborne pathogens, booby traps, fire, and explosion are potential risks associated with the collection and examination of drug evidence. Personnel may be exposed to dust or aerosols containing pharmacologically active quantities of potent psychoactive compounds.


Other Evidence Types

Crime scene trajectory kit
Crime scene trajectory kit
Image courtesy of Armor Forensics (see reuse policy).
Electronic distance-measuring device with target
Electronic distance-measuring device with target
Image courtesy of Tri-Tech Inc., Southport, NC (see reuse policy).

The evidence categories described previously are frequently encountered and may involve special integrity and/or safety elements.

Some other evidence types that may be encountered:

  • Crime scene reconstruction: distance and angle measurements may be taken. Evidence may be analyzed to determine timeline of events.
  • Questioned documents: documents should be protected, as they may have intrinsic value.
  • Toxicology: samples are typically collected by the medical examiner and referred to a toxicologist for examination.
  • Computer crime: recovery of data files that may be directly related to the crime, such as child pornography or identity theft.

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