Frequently Asked Questions about our Forensic Services
What accreditations does Orchid Cellmark have?
Refer to the Accreditation Section of our website
How do I package the evidence and samples?
Link to Collection, Packaging, Storage, and Shipment of Evidence for DNA testing at Orchid Cellmark
Where do I send the evidence and samples?
Please contact Orchid Cellmark's Forensic Customer Service specialists at 1-800-USA-LABS (872-5227). They will advise you of the correct shipping address.
Can Orchid Cellmark extract DNA from a biopsy sample?
Yes, however the success is dependent on how long the tissue has been preserved in the chemical fixatives typically used in biopsy samples. Typical success rate is greater than 80%.
How many hairs are required for mitochondrial DNA testing?
Since it is possible that there might be hair samples from more than one individual in a group of hairs, it is our policy to work with hairs on an individual basis. Therefore, we only need one hair sample for mitochondrial DNA analysis.
What is the preferred length of hair required for mitochondrial DNA testing?
Orchid Cellmark prefers to work with hair samples that are 10-20 mm. However if the hair sample is lighter in color and/or is a fine texture, a longer hair might be required. Mitochondrial testing can be attempted on hairs shorter than 10mm if the client wishes.
What types of samples are needed for DNA testing from a deceased individual?
Typically long dense bones (about 2 to 3 inches) such as a femur work well, depending on the age and storage of the individual. Intact molar teeth with no fillings or cavities also work well. See Case Submission Sample Acceptance Sheet for more information.
How old should a fetus be to test for DNA?
For the best chance of success, a fetus should be at least 8 weeks. Due to the possibility that the mother's DNA could be mixed in with that of the fetus, a known sample from the mother (e.g. cheek swab, blood sample) should also be shipped with the fetus. This sample will be used to confirm that the DNA from the fetus is unique to that of the mother. There is no additional charge for the mother's sample.
What is the difference between a regular paternity and forensic paternity case?
A forensic paternity case is one that is required as part of a criminal investigation such as incest or an underage mother or an abandoned infant. Court-ready reports will be issued for all such cases (where a proper chain of custody is provided) and expert testimony will be available to support our written results as well.
Can DNA be obtained from a urine sample?
Yes, it is possible however storage conditions and age can affect success rate. The historical success rate is 80%.
How much urine is required to get sufficient DNA?
10-20 ccs are typically required to generate a DNA profile.
Will Orchid Cellmark screen a piece of evidence for biological evidence?
Yes, Orchid Cellmark can examine a piece of evidence and test visible stains for the presence of semen, blood and saliva. This can be done for single cases only on a per item basis or for contract clients on a larger scale. For small items such as panties, condoms and sexual assault kits, they will be billed on a per item basis. For larger bulk items, they will be billed on an hourly basis.
When an item of evidence is screened, will the item be damaged during the process?
Depending on the item, it may either be swabbed or cut during the screening process.
What kind of report will be issued for a screening case?
A written report will be issued that indicates either the presence or absence of the biological fluids on each item. If the client has instructed Orchid Cellmark to proceed with DNA testing of each positive stain, then the screening results will be included on the DNA report.
When DNA is being extracted from a stain on an item of material, how large an area is needed to get good results?
Orchid Cellmark prefers to work with items that are at least 3mm x 3mm but we may be able to produce a DNA profile from smaller areas, depending on type and concentration of the stain (semen, blood, saliva, etc.). Typically a semen or blood stain yields the most DNA.
If my evidence is screened and then tested for DNA, do I have to pay separately for these services?
No, if Orchid Cellmark screens an item and it is found to contain DNA, which is subsequently processed, the screening cost is included in the cost of the DNA analysis.
When is Y-STR testing appropriate?
- In sexual assault cases when the sperm fraction is mostly female DNA
- In sexual assault cases when there may be mixtures of DNA from more than two contributors, with at least one being male
- In cases where fingernail clippings, bite marks and breast swabs are being tested. These samples cannot be separated into male and female DNA cell types using regular STR techniques.
- In sexual assault cases when a sample has screened positive for semen, but no spermatozoa are observed
Does Orchid Cellmark accept forensic cases from private citizens?
Yes, but a private citizen will need to be represented by an attorney or private investigator.
What is Chain of Custody?
Chain of Custody is a documented system for tracking the movement of the evidence from the client through the Orchid Cellmark laboratory and back to the client.
How is Chain of Custody maintained?
Chain of Custody begins at the point of origin when the client packages the sample(s) for shipment to Orchid Cellmark. Each piece of evidence must be accompanied by a completed Chain of Custody document and should be sent by a nationally recognized courier with a tracking number that can be used to maintain the chain of custody. Alternatively, samples can be delivered in person to Orchid Cellmark laboratories. Once received by Orchid Cellmark, each transfer of evidence is documented by the Orchid Cellmark lab technicians who are handling the evidence.
How do I obtain case status information?
If a case has already been submitted, you may obtain case status information by contacting our Forensic Customer Service specialists at 1-800-USA-LABS (872-5227). You will be required to submit relevant case information and identify yourself.
Can I obtain case status information electronically?
Orchid Cellmark will be providing electronic case status information in the near future.
Can Orchid Cellmark re-test samples from another lab?
Yes, Orchid Cellmark can re-test samples from another lab. If the case is from a private attorney, we will need payment up front or a court order stating who is responsible for payment.
Does Orchid Cellmark review DNA cases that have been conducted by another laboratory?
Yes, a case review can be performed by Orchid Cellmark experts. A list of relevant discovery materials necessary for a complete case review can be provided upon request. Please call us at 1800-USA-LABS for our price schedule information.
What testing does Orchid Cellmark not perform?
- Animal and plant forensic DNA testing
- Urinalysis and hair analysis for drugs or any substance
- Drug testing
- ABO blood typing
- Screening for genetic abnormalities
- HIV testing
- Traditional finger printing
Which samples will Orchid Cellmark not test?
- Cremated remains
- Samples in formaldehyde
Is it possible to complete a DNA analysis on a rush basis?
Orchid Cellmark may be able to offer a quicker turn around time, depending on several factors. Please contact Orchid Cellmarks Forensic Customer Service specialists at 1-800-USA-LABS (872-5227).
What is the price for forensic paternity testing?
Please call us at 1800-USA-LABS for pricing details.
Who is responsible for payment?
Crime Labs, Police Departments, Sheriffs Offices, Prosecutors, Public Defenders and private attorneys must provide a court order stating who is responsible for payment, or payment is required up front if no court order is provided.