Forensic Toxicology


The Toxicology Unit tests blood and other body fluids or tissue samples for alcohol, controlled substances, and occasionally poisons. These tests assist investigations of crimes where drug or alcohol use may be implicated and provide support in determining the cause and manner of death. Toxicology Units are located in all three Bureau locations: Madison, Milwaukee, and Wausau. To support the unit, there are seven full time Toxicology positions. Since 2014, two Controlled Substance Analysts in Wausau have provided support to the Bureau by performing Blood Alcohol Analysis; eventually they hope is to establish and staff a full time Toxicology Unit.


From an analytical viewpoint, there are two broad categories of cases in the Toxicology Unit. The first category of analysis is for the presence of alcohol. Alcohol-only cases comprise, by and far, the largest number of samples tested in the Toxicology Unit. These analyses are routine and are generally completed by a single toxicologist within thirty days of submission. The second category of analysis is for the presence of substances of interest, with or without alcohol analysis. Substances of interest may include drugs or poisons; however, poison cases are exceptionally rare. As a whole, these cases can require widely different sets of analyses; each class of drugs may require a separate assay or analysis scheme. Due to the complexity of these analyses, samples are often batched to improve efficiency and as such, each class of drugs may be worked by different toxicologists. Importantly, the turnaround time and pending case log are largely affected by the number and complexity of these cases.


For more information on Toxicology tests performed and instrumentation used refer here.  


Forensic Toxicology : Caseload and Case Type


In 2016 the Forensic Toxicology Unit saw a 14% decrease in cases submitted for analysis as well as a decrease in turnaround time by five days. The positive impact on the case backlog as well as the turnaround time can be attributed to new staff completing training. As demonstrated by the graph to the right, and similar to 2015, a majority of the cases worked in the Unit are motor vehicle related. Additionally, homicide cases contributed to 34% of the Unit’s caseload, a 7% increase from 2015.