Government of Ontario

CFS - Technical Information Sheets - Biology - DNA - High Volume Service Protocol

Centre of Forensic Sciences

Technical Information Sheets

Biology - DNA High Volume Service (HVS) Guide

DNA High Volume Service (HVS) Guide – PDF, 244 kb

Submitting evidence

The CFS HVS conducts examinations and DNA analysis in support of the investigation of high volume crimes

Consultations prior to submission are not required, but may be made via email or telephone to:

High Volume Scientific Advisor

Complete an online Case Submission including all relevant information such as:

  • Names of the individuals involved and their relationship to each other/scene/items. 
  • A brief description of the alleged events leading to, during, and subsequent to the occurrence. 
  • A list of items being submitted and the examinations requested. 
  • An explanation as to how the items may be related to the occurrence. 
  • For cases involving examinations for blood, indicate the number of potential bleeders, if known. 
  • Reference pre-consultations with CFS staff (if any), include the tracking number provided 
  • Confirm the occurrence meets the requirements for a DNA designated offence. 
  • List any known time pressures (e.g. court dates). 
  • A maximum of 3 items can be submitted per case without consultation

NOTE: all priority requests (e.g. due to public safety risk) require consultation prior to submission.

Qualifying offences

The following Primary or Secondary Designated Offences (as per Section 487.04 of the Criminal Code) are accepted into the CFS DNA HVS line:

Primary Designated Offences

  • 348(1)(d) Breaking and entering a dwelling house
  • All other listed Primary Designated offences should be submitted to the Biology Violent Crime Service 

ALL Listed and Generic Secondary Designated Offences, EXCEPT

  • 98.1 Robbery to steal firearm
  • 173(1) Indecent Acts
  • 266 Assault
  • 270 Assaulting a peace officer
  • 159(1) Anal Intercourse 
  • 160(1) Bestiality
  • 162 Voyeurism
  • 280/281/282/283 Abduction offences
  • All traffic offences involving direct impact of a person by a vehicle  resulting in injury or death

Please refer to the National DNA Databank website for the complete list of designated offences.

Contact the High Volume Scientific Advisor for clarification or exceptions.

Acceptance criteria

All submissions to the Biology section, including the HVS, must meet the National DNA Databank Criteria as per the DNA Identification Act (1998):

The crime scene index shall contain DNA profiles derived from bodily substances found:

  1. at any place where a designated offence was committed;
  2. on or within the body of the victim of a designated offence;
  3. on anything worn or carried by the victim at the time when a designated offence was committed; or
  4. on or within the body of any person or thing or at any place associated with the commission of a designated offence.

Items accepted

Only three types of items are routinely accepted by the HVS:

  1. Swabs
  2. Cigarette butts
  3. Cut-outs from envelope flaps

For all item types:

  • Items should be air-dried prior to submission
  • Package only one item per container
  • Package into paper bags, breathable plastic bags, swab boxes/tubes or envelopes
  • Attach a numbered seal to each container

Reasons why items may not be initially accepted:

  • Item type has a low success rate/expectation of obtaining reliable results.
  • Item does not meet the HVS guidelines for item type.
  • Item is not the most relevant to address the allegations or has no probative value.
  • Individual is already associated with an item (e.g. handler analysis requested though item is located in individual’s possession)
  • Limitations of the testing preclude examination 
  • Item has undergone pre-testing by the submitting agency (e.g. fingerprinting/presumptive body fluid testing). 

Comparison samples

Required for comparison to DNA profiles generated in a case, to assist in excluding individuals as the source of unknown profiles.

Ensures that DNA profiles which are attributable to complainants / deceased are not uploaded to the DNA Databank.

Samples from known individuals, collected with consent, by warrant or discarded, may be submitted at any point.

The accompanying case synopsis should include:

  • Comparison sample type (e.g. consent, warrant or discard)
  • A list of any other cases and items to which a comparison is requested and authorized, if outside of the current case.  If none are listed, comparisons will be confined to results generated in the case for which the comparison sample is submitted.

Codes are required for all samples received from persons other than complainants, deceased individuals, or discard samples.

 Suggested codes:

  • CDW – Comparison DNA Warrant Sample
  • CC – Consent Comparison
  • ELS – Elimination Sample

Comparison samples from complainants should be submitted if they have handled / contacted evidence samples.

Standard item types

  1. Cigarette Butts (CB)
    • can be submitted whole to the HVS but must have been smoked
      cigarette butt

Note: for plastic cigarillo tips, do not submit the plastic "tip". Unlike regular cigarette butts, these must be swabbed and submitted as a potential saliva swab.

  1. Cut-outs from Envelope Flaps (ENV)
    • envelopes must have been previously sealed
    • cut-out an approximately 2 cm square section from the flap of the envelope using either a disposable blade or scissors that have been decontaminated with a ~1% bleach solution between items
  2. Swabs

    Swabs of a variety of item types may be submitted. When swabbing, regardless of the item type:

    • process each item using only one swab
    • unless possible blood or saliva on an item is still wet, all swabs should be slightly moistened using 1 to 3 drops of sterile water prior to use
    • the wet swabs should be dried prior to packaging to prevent the occurrence of mold
    • do not over saturate the swabs with water
    • do not submit control swabs

Swab types

Six general item types can be swabbed and submitted for analysis by the HVS:

  1. swabs of suspected blood (BLS)
  2. "saliva" swabs (SAS)
  3. "worn" item swabs (WRS)
  4. "handled" item swabs (HDS)
  5. airbag swabs (ABS)
  6. "other" swabs (OTH)
  1. Blood Swabs (BLS)
  • testing for blood is the only form of body fluid identification regularly performed by the HVS. Only swabs that test positive for blood are carried forward for DNA analysis
  • submit only one blood swab per suspected bleeder and/or scene
  • if the suspected bloodstain to be swabbed is dry, use a moistened swab
  • if the suspected bloodstain to be swabbed is still wet, use a dry swab
  • do not oversaturate the swab with blood; doing so can inhibit our ability to obtain a DNA profile
    blood swabs
  • DO NOT TEST suspected bloodstains or swabs with presumptive tests such as Hematsix® or enhancement chemicals such as Luminol, BlueStar®, or LMG. These can inhibit our ability to obtain a DNA profile
  1. Saliva Swabs (SAS)

    Saliva swabs represent one of the broadest categories of swabs accepted by the HVS, encompassing all items that may have come into contact with saliva and/or nasal secretions. This category includes, but is not limited to, swabs of:

    • Drink containers
    • Drinking straws
    • Lipsticks
    • Drug pipes
    • Partially eaten food
    • Utensils and cutlery
    • Suspected spit
    • Plastic cigarillo tips
    saliva swabs
  1. Wearer DNA Swabs (WRS)

    Swabs of worn items are limited to swabs of:

    • headwear and masks
    • gloves
      Fingertips may be excised for fingerprinting purposes.
    • personal effects: Limited to eyewear, watches and earbuds
      eyewear, watches and earbuds
      Eyewear: swab frame and inside. Watches: swab knobs and entire inside surface.

    Swabs of other worn items submitted as “WRS” will be routinely returned.

    In each case, submitters should target the areas of the item that will have been in tightest contact with the skin, or, in the case of masks, those areas of the item that may have contacted the nose/mouth area. 

  1. Handler Swabs (HDS)

    Handled items must have been brought to the scene by perpetrators during the commission of an offence. Accepted items are limited to:

    • Weapons: firearms and knives only
      firearms and knives
    • Tools with defined handles/grips (see examples below)
      tools with defined handles/grips

    Swabs of other handled items submitted as “HDS” will be routinely returned.

    Items that are not accepted for handler DNA analysis include swabs of: keys, doorknobs, drawer handles, ammunition / shell casings, cigarette lighters, steering wheels, and gear shifts.

    Target grip or handle areas of tools. If item has two grips/ handles, use one swab for both.

  1. Airbag Swabs (ABS)

    In cases in which a vehicle airbag has been deployed, a swab of each airbag deployed may be submitted. Use one swab per airbag and swab the interior ~15cm diameter area of the bag and any areas of visible ‘mucous-like’ staining.

    If there is any visible blood-like staining, swab the potential blood staining separately and submit it as a separate item.



    • DNA profiles from airbags generally cannot be used to ‘position’ occupants within a vehicle at the time of a crash (e.g. to determine who may have been driving or a passenger).
    • In the event that a vehicle directly impacts a pedestrian, your case should be submitted to the Biology Violent Crime Service and a phone consultation carried out prior to submitting items.
  1. Other DNA Swabs (OTH)

  • In some cases, it may be warranted to submit a swab of an item that falls outside of those listed here. In these instances, submitters should contact the HVS by phone (647-329-1601) or email ( prior to making the submission.  These requests will immediately trigger the involvement of a scientific advisor in the online acceptance process.  Please provide your case synopsis, a list of those items available for testing, which items you are making an exception request for, and how their analysis will further your investigation.
  • If the item(s) is accepted, written confirmation will be provided by email. 

Limitations of DNA

  • The DNA profile generated is not necessarily from the last person to handle or wear the item
  • The DNA profile generated is not necessarily from the most frequent user or wearer of an item
  • An individual can handle or wear an item and not deposit sufficient DNA for detection
  • DNA depositions cannot be dated

After testing

The following are routinely discarded after testing:

  • Remainders of cigarette butts, envelope flaps, and swab sticks
  • Any “possible blood” swabs that test ‘negative’ for blood
  • Original packaging

Packaging and/or any remaining item are only retained when:

  • Packaging is found to be compromised
  • Potential for contamination is noted

Final reminders

  • Do NOT use presumptive tests such as Hemastix or Luminol on stains; they may interfere with our ability to obtain a DNA profile.
  • Swab for DNA submission before fingerprinting and/or test firing
  • Swab and submit possible blood on any item separately
  • All wet swabs should be air dried prior to packaging
  • Blood identification on swabs is the only body fluid testing performed on HVS submissions
  • If identification of semen or saliva may be critical to an investigation, consult with the HVS Unit prior to submission
  • Repeat analysis of the same item is not offered
  • Priority analysis is not offered through the HVS