Trace evidence such as hairs, fibers, or DNA can be used during the course of an investigation to establish a relationship between a person, place, object and/or activity. For example, a vehicle may be linked to the scene of a hit-and-run by the paint that was transferred onto its bumper from the vehicle that was struck.

Additionally, any time a person or object contacts a material such as a controlled substance or explosive, a trace chemical residue is left behind. Detecting these trace chemicals has historically not been an option for responders, because the sample size was so small, usually invisible to the eye. However, with new detection technology introduced with the MX908, trace chemical residue detection and identification is actually possible.

The power of trace chemical detection

Adding trace chemical detection to the responder toolbox means that new types of evidence can be found to draw critical connections in an investigation.

Here are some common examples of ways that this granular level of information can be used:

  • Determine if a vehicle was used to transport a controlled substance
  • Confirm various tools that were used to construct an improvised explosive device
  • Locate labware that was used to synthesize methamphetamine

A story from the field

We often hear stories from users of the MX908 about how trace chemical detection has transformed the way they work, and we want to share those stories with you to show you just what’s possible. It’s important to note that the location and all identifying information needed to be scrubbed to respect the sensitivity of the live work.

Transforming a vehicle search

A recent story involving trace chemical residues came to us from an MX908 user who was conducting a vehicle search. During the search, the officer did not find any bulk controlled substances, but did locate several plastic bags with a small amount of powder residue. The residue was not enough for other field tests, but the MX908 was able to easily identify the presence of fentanyl in each bag.

The results from the MX908, combined with additional information from the traffic stop, were used to obtain a search warrant for the suspect’s home. At the suspect’s home, law enforcement officers were able to recover the following:

  • Additional bulk fentanyl and crack cocaine
  • $10,000 in cash
  • Several stolen firearms

In this instance, the suspect was arrested on multiple charges, in part, due to trace chemical evidence from a routine traffic stop. Without the MX908, generating enough evidence to obtain the warrant was likely not possible and the suspect would not have been charged.

The wrap-up

The MX908 utilizing High-Pressure Mass Spectrometry™ technology can give responders more options when investigating the unknown. Residue evidence that once would have been ignored or required lab time to truly confirm can now be identified on the spot for answers that help inform next steps.