A strategy is described for detecting mitochondrial (mt) DNA variation which permits rapid and straightforward screening for forensic purposes. The method is based on the selection of fragments with adequate length for performing single strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis selecting a set of restriction enzymes (RE) which yield fragments with prefixed lengths. After digestion of mtDNA by the appropriate enzyme or set of enzymes, SSCP analysis is performed in a semiautomatic electrophoretic system using a silver staining detection method. The conformational changes due to single mutations were therefore found not to change the electrophoretic protocol but to change the relative position of the mutations within the fragment. The discrimination power of this method is estimated to be 90% when two restriction enzymes (MspI and HinfI) are used, but it is considerably higher when other enzymes are added.