Forensic analysis of suspected narcotics is often dangerous as the substances’ composition is unknown. Many techniques for drug identification require handling of the substance outside of its packaging, which can expose the analyst to potentially harmful chemicals. The TruNarc Handheld Narcotics Analyzer is a portable Raman spectroscopy device that is non-destructive of evidence and can be used to screen drugs through simple packaging to minimize the risk of exposure. The Orange County Crime Lab (OCCL) is testing the limits of this device to determine if it can be used to screen new evidence within the Seized Drugs Lab. The OCCL has used this device on over 85 pieces of individual casework, which were then confirmed using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Methamphetamine, cocaine, and fentanyl in various forms such as powders, crystalline substances, and tablets, are all drugs we are optimistic that the TruNarc will be able to accurately identify in casework. We found that the three drugs of interest could be identified in most cases where substances were light in color, in powder or crystalline form, and in translucent plastic packaging. However, mixtures and tablets were difficult for the TruNarc to accurately identify. Further testing will be done to determine the lower limits of detection for drugs of interest before making a decision on implementing the device as a pre-analysis screening method in the laboratory and field settings.
Yang, Sarah; Bauer, D.; Woltz, C.; Soto, S.; and Ibba, Michael, "Evaluation of the TruNarc Handheld Narcotics Analyzer as a Pre-Analysis Screening Device for the Orange County Crime Lab" (2021). Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters. 491.