Toxicology, the study of the effects of drugs, chemicals, poisons, and other substances on living organisms, is a very interesting field that can have major implications in the legal world. Thanks to the expert work of toxicologists and their toxicology reports, the samples of hair, urine, blood, and other bodily fluids/matrices, can show whether someone has used or is using drugs, legally or illegally, or has been exposed to certain chemicals or toxins.
In some cases, the toxicologist will be called into court as an expert witness, to explain the contents of their toxicology report and the conclusions that have been provided. A toxicology report can be based on both a living or a deceased person, depending on the circumstances.
What is a toxicology report/statement?
To be specific, a toxicology report, which is also referred to as the expert statement, is a document detailing the detection, isolation, and identification of chemicals, toxins, or poisons in a given sample. The expert statement will also include the detailed interpretation of the results and the conclusion of the findings.
A typical toxicology report will list and detail:
- The samples used: hair, blood, urine, and/or other bodily fluids, and stomach contents (in the case of an autopsy)
- The testing methods used: this is to describe what was tested for, using what sample and the period of detection this covers; for example “multiple drug screen testing in hair covering a 3 month period.” This can also be found in a table format.
- Patient data: Name, date of birth, pre-existing medical conditions, medical prescriptions, previous drug and/or alcohol history, and any products that can affect the results, such as hair chemical treatments.
- Detailed lab results: Each compound that was tested for will be listed, with both negative and positive results, with the positive results having the detected concentrations present, the measurement units and any recommended guidelines and laboratory data necessary for that compound. The positive results will likely be in a table and/or graph that is easy to comprehend
- Explanation of the findings: A detailed interpretation of results. The summary will interpret positive results and provide a conclusion based on the likelihood probability for how the positive result is present. For example, in regards to cannabis, it could suggest whether the results are more likely due to external/passive exposure to cannabis or from direct inhalation.
Being provided with a toxicology report allows a clearer understanding of the results, which can assist, along with other evidence, toward the overall outcome of a case. By having results alone with no expert interpretation, can cause misinterpretation of the evidence and consequently a potential miscarriage of justice.
In which cases are toxicology reports used?
- Custodial cases with suspected drug or alcohol use
- Suspected acute poisoning
- Drug facilitated crime/sexual assault
- Drug dependency programmes (urine testing)
- Port mortem analysis for drugs or alcohol
- Drink/drug driving cases
- Renewal of driving licence
- Therapeutic drug monitoring
- Trace metal analysis - clinical applications, environmental exposure, occupational monitoring
Here at DNA Legal, our toxicology services are most often used for drug and alcohol testing in a range of matrices such as hair, urine, blood, nails and oral fluid, for different legal proceedings. Additional services such as the identification of unknown substances, calculating the purity of a substance, spiking/poisoning incidents, drug/alcohol driving reviews and other toxicological areas can also be accommodated.
This means testing hair, urine, blood, oral fluid, nails, gastric content, organs, and putrefactive liquid to see what comes up. We are also a popular choice for those who have been involved in driving incidents and must have a blood alcohol test, as well as for drug/alcohol driving reviews after a case has finished.
Who does our toxicology reporting?
The laboratory team and experts with years of experience and more than 20 thousand cases and expert reports, our Head of Forensic Toxicology, Dr Salah Breidi, and his team of toxicologists and reporting scientists, are experts in the field of toxicology, performing a range of different reporting services to our valued clients.
What is one example of toxicology reporting in the UK?
One service that we offer is hair strand drug and alcohol testing, to establish the current level of alcohol intake and changes in drinking patterns, in order to add to any ongoing court cases or legal battles. This service is particularly useful for individuals who have made a personal or legal commitment to fight their substance dependency, as they can do regular toxicology tests to assess their performance.
The UK testing industry has found that those who are going through this process of self-improvement and combating their dependence, often experience unnecessary hurdles and potential miscarriages of justice due to breakdowns in communication, clarity, and interpretation.
The figure for issues in these family law cases rests between 15% and 20%. We want to mitigate this.
How do we solve this problem?
When clarity and interpretation are the issues, the best way to solve them is with excellent communication and training. As we are accountable to our valued customers, the DNA Legal team works dutifully to assess all underlying factors in the case at hand. We also provide practitioner training to our team so that they can ensure the testing goes smoothly. For example, we:
- Give continued professional development, training, and support for solicitors in order to select the best testing options for the present legal case
- Provide free advice and support to all relevant parties throughout the testing process
- Take into consideration all other evidence that we have in our expert witness reports
Are our results peer-reviewed or cross-checked for accuracy?
Absolutely! We want to ensure that our clients are getting the best service possible, so we regularly review our results against other toxicology providers. We offer the same service in return, and so the benefit to all parties is that the reports see more expert eyes and avoid being misinterpreted and leading to a questionable verdict.
How long does a toxicology report take?
Depending on the types of test and export statement needed, we advise that a toxicology report could take approximately between 24 hours and up to 3 weeks to be completed, though a few days is more likely. The reason the test is not faster could be that the lab has a backlog of tests that they need to do - this problem is amplified in metropolitan areas, where the number of testing facilities per capita is lower.
Another reason for the length of testing could be that parts of the report were inconclusive and require additional tests for confirmation.
Is a toxicology report a public record?
In many cases, yes, the toxicology report is a public record, however, in some cases, privacy laws intervene and keep the report as a private document - it all depends on the circumstances. In the case of a deceased individual, their toxicology report will form part of the coroner’s autopsy report, which may be obtained from the coroner’s office by request. We adhere to the GDPR guidelines; DNA Legal is committed to ensuring that your privacy is protected.
How do you get a toxicology report from DNA Legal?
Our team is ready and waiting for your toxicology testing needs. To procure their expertise for whatever reason, please give us a call today on 0203 424 3470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.