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The Custody Policy clearly defines the importance of handling evidence with integrity. To avoid flaws that emanate from the tampering and altering of evidence, a Chain of Custody Policy has been initiated. The components of this policy include data collection, its study, and finally its preservation until the time it is produced in court. In this era of technology, it has become very easy to alter electronically stored data. This is one reason why the Chain of Custody Policy has been upgraded to ensure that electronic data is copied well and that it is safely transported and stored without any events of alterations (Applied Discovery, 2004). This paper delves deeply into the Chain of Custody Procedures in matters regarding the acceptance and handling of evidence.
Chain of Custody Procedures
An effective Chain of Custody Procedure must have proper documentation that backs up the available evidence. This documentation is supposed to be accessible to the law whenever required and the systems that handle it must be documented. The Chain of Custody Procedures is characterized by filling in a form whereby the first person to encounter the evidence records his name. This is followed by recording the date and time when the evidence was collected. The place where this evidence was collected must also be documented as part of the procedure. The evidence custodian’s name is included as it is important to know who is handling the evidence (Applied Discovery, 2004).
In addition, the acceptance and handling of evidence require data description that entails a clear and detailed account of the evidence. These details include the type of data collected, the labeling, media type, data characterization, amount, write protection, as well as serial or volume numbers. To complete the Chain of Custody Procedures form, all the tools used are listed which go together with the problems encountered when collecting this evidence. The person who conducted this procedure lists the outcomes and appends his name to the form (1).
An additional form that applies in cases where the evidence is moved from the place of collection to its storage is also available. This form is important in that it verifies that the evidence was indeed moved from location A to B and for what purposes. The date and time when this took place are recorded and this is accompanied by a thorough inspection to ensure that all the details are intact. The data analysis is also described to allow for efficient and smooth data transmission (1).
Upholding evidence integrity
Credibility is a factor when it comes to handling evidence as it dictates whether a piece of evidence will be acceptable or not. There are various types of evidence such as forensic evidence, digital evidence, and physical evidence and their handling differ. For forensic evidence, the use of gloves is necessary for the handling of evidence and they must be changed if handling different types of evidence. This evidence is then packaged separately and then labeled clearly with a date of collection, the case, and the item number. The person packaging this evidence then includes his initials on the package. If the evidence is being shipped, it must be delivered between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM on a working day (Orchid Cellmark, 2006).
Handling of evidence follows five rules that demand that the evidence be admissible, complete, believable, authentic, and reliable. If any piece of evidence does not meet these requirements, it is considered to have lost its integrity and thus not usable. Contamination of evidence leads to improper judgment and that is why crime scenes must be sealed off. Presenting contaminated evidence in court is a crime. The possibility of the wrong person being charged for a certain crime is high and this is among the reasons why evidence must be treated with integrity as highlighted by Hess and Orthman (2001).
New trends in forensic science are influencing the evidence collection field positively. Scientific developments have revived this field in that DNA fingerprinting is now applicable in evidence collection. Strands of hair at a crime scene can now be tracked to their owner through DNA technology. This technology has been rated most powerful as it produces tangible evidence due to its high accuracy. Dr. Mullis, a Chemistry Nobel Prize winner has come up with a further technology referred to as PCR Amplification that makes DNA investigations even more accurate according to Almirall and Furton (2005).
Upholding evidence integrity is vital in the court processes as uncontaminated evidence gives weight to the case and leads to justice. The chain of custody procedures highlights how evidence should be collected and presented without compromising it. Evidence, as highlighted by this paper must be handled by professionals to ensure that it reaches its final stage safely without alterations. Maintaining accurate records of evidence plays a great role in ensuring that the crime perpetrators are prosecuted. Thanks to the evolving technology in the forensic world, it is now possible to get evidence that is more accurate from minute pieces of evidence through DNA.
Almirall, J., & Furton, K. (2005). Trends in forensic science education: expansion and increased accountability. Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry, 376(8).
Applied Discovery. (2004). Chain of custody log. Law Library, 1(2), p. 1.
Hess, K., & Orthman, C. (2001). Criminal investigation (9th Edition). USA: Cengage Learning.
Orchid Cellmark. (2006). Forensic evidence handling guidelines. Handling Evidence, 10(5), 1-3.