A mistrial occurs when a trial is rendered invalid due to some error in the proceedings. Generally, these errors have to be something that calls the fairness of a trial into question. Two common causes of mistrials are a hung jury—when a jury is unable to return a unanimous verdict—and the illness or death of an attorney or juror. As you can imagine, mistrials are often very frustrating for law enforcement, as they can potentially create an inability to legally prosecute a criminal defendant.
An additional, and completely preventable, cause of mistrials is that of evidence tampering. This can involve a compromised chain of custody, or evidence that has not been properly preserved and labeled. By using evidence tracking, mistrials due to evidence tampering can be greatly reduced or eliminated.
The Importance of Chain of Custody
Chain of custody is an important aspect of understanding mistrials. A chain of custody refers to the chronological paper trail that records the sequence of custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition of physical evidence. Chain of custody is designed to establish that the alleged evidence is related to the alleged crime, rather than having been fraudulently planted or falsified to make someone appear guilty. Evidence must be documented down to the exact date and time of collection to create an unbroken chain of custody—ruling out any possibilities of tampering or mishandling. Failure to establish an unbroken chain of custody can be particularly detrimental in criminal cases, as a resulting mistrial can prevent criminal prosecution.
How to Prevent Mistrials
In order to prevent mistrials, it’s important to establish the chain of custody through proper evidence handling practices. This would include proper evidence labeling and use of evidence tracking software:
• Proper Evidence Labeling: Proper evidence labeling not only lessens the risk of tampering or mistrials but also ensures organization internally for police agencies while increasing credibility. It’s essential for consistent labeling practices to be adhered to at all times, making sure all evidence is properly tagged and full item numbers and descriptions being listed.
• Use of Evidence Tracking Software: Evidence tracking systems are an efficient and cost-effective way to help prevent mistrials. When compared to traditional methods of manual bookkeeping and retrieval, evidence tracking software is much faster and accurate. You can eliminate the need to use a paper filing system for evidence, while also making it easier to quickly retrieve, track, transfer, and purge all forms of evidence. As a result, it is much easier to establish a chain of custody and help prevent mistrials.
PMI Evidence Tracking Software
The PMI Evidence Tracker is a customizable barcode tracking software system that helps law enforcement and legal professionals track physical and digital evidence efficiently. Law enforcement professionals across the country have trusted our software to ensure efficient, organized, and streamlined evidence retrieval, asset tracking, and chain of custody.
When you choose to partner with PMI Evidence Tracker, you’ll maintain evidence more efficiently than ever, helping to prevent mistrials and keep your department organized! Your department can take advantage of unparalleled user customization and unrivaled customer support, getting all of the resources it needs for maximum efficiency at an affordable price. Contact us to learn more about how our evidence tracking software can help your department today!