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FBI Laboratory Seal


New on Site:


The FBI is pleased to announce a Laboratory symposium on forensic toxicology to be held concurrently with a joint meeting of the Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT) and The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT). We invite you to attend this unique educational experience August 28 - September 3, 2004, in Washington, DC.

The successful investigation and prosecution of crimes requires, in most cases, the collection, preservation, and forensic analysis of evidence, which can be crucial to demonstrations of guilt or innocence. As one of the largest and most comprehensive forensic laboratories in the world, the FBI Laboratory provides forensic and technical services to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies at no expense to these agencies. Analyses of physical evidence ranging from blood and other biological materials to explosives, drugs, and firearms are conducted by the Laboratory, which also serves as a continual source of new scientific techniques. Laboratory examiners provide expert witness testimony in court cases regarding the results of forensic examinations, and specially-trained teams of Special Agent and support personnel assist domestic and international law enforcement agencies in large-scale investigations and disasters.

Today's FBI Laboratory has a history spanning more than 65 years. On November 24, 1932, the United States Bureau of Investigation (USBOI) created a Technical Laboratory in the Southern Railway Building in Washington, DC, as a means of improving the agency's investigative methods. Approximately one thousand examinations, most involving handwriting and firearms analyses, were conducted by the Laboratory during its first year of operation. In 1933, one year after the USBOI and the Prohibition Bureau were consolidated to form the Division of Investigation (DOI), the Technical Laboratory was relocated to the United States Department of Justice Building in Washington, DC, where it occupied the seventh floor and attic. Public tours of the Laboratory allowed visitors to pass directly through FBI work space.

On July 1, 1935, the DOI was officially renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Seven years later, the Laboratory was established as its own Division within the Bureau. In 1974, FBI Headquarters and the Laboratory were moved to the newly-completed J. Edgar Hoover building, an architectural icon synonymous with the Bureau's identity in Washington. A tour route was again made available to the public, but in this building visitors passed through corridors separate from the Laboratory's actual working space.

In 1981, the Laboratory's Forensic Science Research and Training Center (FSRTC) was established at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The FSRTC, internationally renowned for the development of new methodology in forensic analysis, serves as the primary means for transferring new concepts, techniques, and procedures to the forensic science and law enforcement communities. Training is available at no direct expense to state and local forensic laboratories in latent fingerprint identification, DNA analysis, hairs and fibers examination, firearms and toolmarks identification, document examination, bomb disposal, polygraph testing, shoe prints and tire treads analysis, and artist sketching. Through research conducted in coordination with crime laboratories across the United States, an extensive training program, and yearly international symposia, the FSRTC works to establish standardized forensic practices among scientific and law enforcement agencies. Quality assurance and proficiency testing guidelines for examiners and laboratories are emphasized by the FSRTC's technical assistance program and developed in concert with specialized working groups and the forensic community.

More than one million examinations are conducted by the FBI Laboratory each year, and efforts to implement the results of current research in forensic casework are ongoing. For more information about the role of the FBI Laboratory in forensic science and law enforcement, read about the different Units composing this cornerstone of the Bureau.


   The FBI Laboratory Web pages are compiled and edited by Warren Dean Fletcher ,Virginia W. Field, and Colleen Wade.

Graphic link to FBI Home Page Graphic link to FBI Laboratory Graphic link to Handbook of Forensic Services
Graphic link to FBI Headquarters and Programs page Graphic link to Laboratory Services
Graphic link to Forensic Science Communications
  Information revised June 2003