The results of forensic analysis must be of unimpeachable quality and reliability for the Coast Guard to establish and prove responsibility for an oil spill discharge, up through and including criminal prosecution. The Coast Guard cannot effectively recover costs, assess and collect penalties, or enforce the law unless there is sufficient evidence to confirm a "match" between discharged oil and a responsible party.
The results of forensic analysis are of greatest value to the pollution investigator when a suspect vessel is still in their jurisdiction. MSL is in continual contact with investigators, providing feedback on cases before final reports are completed. MSL's normal case turn-around time is 3 days, but can provide 24-hour turn-around for critical or high visibility/media interest cases.
Communicating results of forensic analysis requires explanation of difficult technical concepts in understandable, non-technical language. Federal prosecutors have reported confidence in MSL procedures and techniques.
An expert witness must communicate quality, impart confidence in reported findings, and withstand rigorous cross-examination. If an expert is impeached or disqualified, results of forensic analysis, however reliable, are invalidated.