Whether it’s examining DNA or fingerprints left at a crime scene or linking exploded bomb fragments to terrorists, the FBI Laboratory’s world-class scientists use scientific rigor to solve cases and prevent crime and terrorism.
Law enforcement agencies can learn about the FBI Laboratory services on the FBI’s law enforcement site.
The FBI has elite teams of evidence collectors who ensure evidence is collected appropriately so it can be used in court. Some of the FBI’s evidence response experts even respond to underwater searches or hazardous scenes like that of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear incident.
As part of FBI forensic efforts, experts can provide crime scene surveys, documentations, photography, models, and more to support FBI investigations or those of law enforcement partner agencies.
FBI photographers are also a key part of the FBI’s crime scene response efforts. They capture crime scene and investigation response photos, site survey photos, aerial mission, and more.
Evidence teams close the gap between a crime scene and the FBI Laboratory. Get an inside look at the Evidence Response Team Basic Course, where team members learn to process a scene with precision and care.
Nearly anything connected to a crime scene can provide clues for the FBI’s scientists—like a tire tread, a piece of hair, or a code scribbled on paper.
Some of the scientific analysis techniques that help FBI scientists crack the case include:
- Questioned documents: Experts can compare handwriting, examine plastic bags, look at indented writing on paper, and examine tire tread or shoeprints for clues.
- Firearms and toolmarks: Scientists and other specialists can compare bullets to barrels, determine the distance from where a gun shot was fired, and examine shot patterns.
- Cryptanalysis: Cryptanalysts crack the case by cracking the code. They decrypt manual codes and ciphers used by gangs, drug traffickers, human traffickers, and more. Cryptic symbols from graffiti, tattoos, and other sources provide key leads to law enforcement.
- Trace evidence: Trace evidence experts look at evidence as microscopic as a human hair. They also examine fibers, fabric, and minerals. Forensic anthropologists can analyze human skeletal remains for investigative clues.
- Chemistry: FBI chemists examine threat letters, dyes, tear gases, bank dye packs, and more. Metallurgists analyze metal evidence to learn about composition and properties, such as piecing together fragments of weapons or learning about a building collapse. Chemists can also look at paints and polymers. Toxicology experts examine biological samples and food evidence for the presence of poisons or drugs.
The DNA testing results obtained from evidence samples are compared to DNA from reference samples collected from known people. This testing helps associate victims and suspects with each other, with evidence items, or with a crime scene.
The FBI’s operational technology experts have technical capabilities that help the FBI and other law enforcement agencies investigate crime and terrorism. These experts exploit digital and multimedia evidence and support investigations involving digital evidence. The FBI’s Regional Computer Forensic Laboratories are full service forensic laboratories and training centers, devoted to examining digital evidence.