General SDFL FAQ

Q: Does the SD Forensic Lab accept civil cases?
A: No. The SD Forensic Lab accepts criminal cases.

Q: Is there a fee for service charged by the SD Forensic Lab?
A: No. There are no direct fees charged to the submitting agency for analytical testing or expert court testimony.

Q: As the investigating officer, do I send the evidence for drug analysis to your lab?
A: No. The DCI Forensic Laboratory does not perform drug analysis. This evidence must be sent to the State Health Lab for analysis. They can be reached at 605-773-3368.

Q: Can you do exams for the private citizen (i.e. paternity testing etc.)?
A: No. According to State statute, this laboratory can accept evidence from only law enforcement.

Evidence Intake FAQ

Q: What are the hours of evidence intake at the SDFL?
A: Please notify the evidence section to the submittal of evidence at (605) 773-7843.  The hours for personal delivery intake are Monday - Thursday, 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.  The hours on Friday are 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
After hours evidence locker delivery is available. The appropriate paperwork must be placed in the locker with the evidence. Contact the building security for access to this area.

Q: What is the protocol for submitting evidence? 
A: Evidence must be prelogged into the BarCoding, Evidence, Analysis, Tracking and Statistics (BEAST) lab management system prior to submittal.  To prelog evidence, you must first apply for a Regional Information Sharing System (RISS)  account at  (If you have a previously established RISS account, you are still required to reapply for a new password). Prelogging instructions will accompany the RISS account information to you via email.  For any questions regarding prelog, please contact the evidence section at (605) 773-7843.
Q: How do you package the firearms for examination?
A: Use the appropriate weapons packing evidence container. The firearm must preferably first be made safe by inspecting the chamber for any rounds*. Remove the magazine and any rounds in the chamber. It is not necessary to put a cable tie on the firearm, but if prefered, do not put the cable tie through the barrel, since this can possibly damage the grooves and lands inside of the barrel. Put the cable tie through the magazine well and the ejection port (pistol), or through one of the chambers of a revolver cylinder and the trigger guard (revolver). Refer to the evidence packaging manual on the website for further details.
*Use caution to preserve any Trace or Fingerprint evidence, if applicable.

Q: Do I need any specific software to run the BEAST from my office computer?
A: Yes. You will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader version 8 or greater installed on your computer. If you do not, please go to and download and install the newest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader available.
Q: What additional paperwork should accompany the evidence?
A: A copy of the offense report and any appropriate search warrants and/or consents to search are required.
Q: Will I receive the Results of Examination at my mailing address?
A: Results of Examination can be downloaded to your computer immediately through your RISS account.  
Q: Will any evidence containing child pornography be returned to me?
A: See SDCL 22-24A-15 for state forfeiture laws. 

Forensic Biology FAQ

Q: In missing person or unidentified body cases, why do I need a Family Reference Consent Collection Form?
A: The donor of the biological comparison sample must be aware that nuclear or mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) may be extracted from the sample and used in the identification of a known/unknown kindred family member. In addition, if appropriate, the donor name and other relevant typing information may be placed in the Missing Persons Index of the National DNA Index System for identification and statistical analysis.

Impression Evidence FAQ

Q: How are people identified by their fingerprints?
A: Friction skin structure is used to identify impressions of fingers, palms, and feet as having been made by a particular person. This type of skin is made up of ridges which are both permanent and unique, barring advanced injury. The size, shape and relative positions of structures of friction skin features are compared. With sufficient quality and quantity of these features in correspondence, an identification is made. There is no set minimum number of features that must be in correspondence, it is through experience, training, and the process of verification that latent print identification standards are determined.

Q: Do people always leave fingerprints when they touch something?
A: No. Many factors determine whether or not a latent print will be of sufficient quality for comparison. These factors include; the condition of the surface, the presence of a substance on the friction skin, environmental and physical conditions the latent is subjected to after deposition, and the nature of the initial touch. For example, if the surface is very dirty, or the hands are very clean, or the surface is exposed to rain, or the finger is wiped across the surface, the print may be non-existent or wiped or washed away. Conversely, if the surface is dry and smooth, the hands are very sweaty, the initial touch is direct, and the latent is protected until examined, the latent print may contain many clear and visible ridges for comparison.

Q: How can 'invisible' fingerprints, made up of only sweat, be seen?
A: The term 'latent' means invisible. Technically, prints which are visible, for instance a bloody fingerprint impression, are referred to as 'patent' prints. Latent impressions, made up only of sweat and/or oil, are very difficult to see. Through the use of crime scene lighting techniques, photography, and the application of chemicals, these impressions are enhanced so that the details of the print can be viewed. Chemicals used range from the standard black powder to specialized chemicals which react with amino acids in sweat, are specific to the sticky side of tape, or are fluorescent when exposed to particular wavelengths of light.

Q: What is a known print?
A: A known print is an intentional reproduction of the friction ridge skin.  This is most often done by applying printers ink to the fingers or palms and placing them onto a white background such as a fingerprint card, producing a reproduction of the friction ridge skin.  Known prints are also referred to as record prints.

Q: How long will fingerprints last?
A: There is no scientific way to know how long a latent fingerprint will last. Fingerprints have been developed on surfaces that had not been touched in over forty years; yet not developed on a surface that was handled very recently. There are a multitude of factors that effect how long fingerprints last. Some include the type of surface touched; the individual who touched it, and environmental conditions can have serious bearing on how long a fingerprint will last on a surface.

Q: Can you tell how old a fingerprint is?
A: There is no scientific way to date the age of a developed latent fingerprint. The only possible way to know the approximate age of a latent fingerprint is to know the last time that surface that the developed latent print is on was thoroughly cleaned. Generally latent print residue will not survive a thorough cleaning, so if a latent print is developed it was probably deposited after cleaning.

Q: Do identical twins have the same fingerprints?
A: No. No one has the same fingerprints; although identical twins have the same DNA, they have different fingerprints.