The Importance of Evidence Tracking in Establishing the Chain of Custody

June 22, 2020 Natalie Dunlap

In many legal cases, you may often hear the phrase “not guilty” in a given verdict. Even those apparent cases where the defendants were most likely to be convicted ended up being released. Many times, such verdicts happen due to the lack of substantial proof being established against an individual. The problem usually arises when the collection of evidence does not follow the proper chain of custody.

In this article, we will share with you what the chain of custody entails and why it’s paramount to incorporate evidence-tracking software in court cases:

The Chain of Custody Explained

It is a critical part of a procedure that must be strictly followed when collecting and managing evidence for it to be admissible in court. For each piece of evidence to be regarded as permissible, it must be handled in a streamlined manner.

At this point, you should be aware how critical each piece of evidence is in affecting the entire decision-making process. They are instrumental in helping the judge and/or the jury decide on the final verdict. For this reason, it is critical to follow a chain of custody, which is why all law enforcement agencies should invest in an effective chain of custody software.

The Procedure

Understand that chain of custody usually starts with a police officer. If you’re wondering what the proper procedure for law enforcement is for collecting evidence, here’s the process police officers typically follow:

  • • They start collecting the evidence by recovering it from the crime scene and putting it into a tamper-proof bag.
  • • They document all details associated with the evidence collected, such as noting the date, time, location of recovery, who collected it along with a description of the item.
  • • They retain custody of the evidence until such time as it can be placed in a secure location back at the department, where it is received in by the property officer.

If an item requires lab testing, by an unbiased, neutral third party, it is critical that the chain of custody is strictly maintained. The typical process is as follows:

  • • The property officer retrieves the item from its’ secured storage location, records where it’s going, who is taking it, time/date and why it’s going.
  • • He will then transfer the item to the transporting officer along with a receipt which will be signed by the Lab and returned to the department as proof of delivery.
  • • The Lab will be responsible to document all steps taken for the sample testing, such as the name of the tester, the actions taken, as well as the date and time of the tests.
  • • When the Lab completes their testing, they securely deliver the item along with the lab analysis back to the department.
  • • The department then receives the item back into the property room using the same procedure in reverse as when it was checked out to the Lab.

The Importance

In general, it is paramount in the legal setting. When strictly followed, the judge is assured that the evidence hasn’t been tampered with so that a right verdict can be reached. If you fail to maintain an unbroken chain of custody, however, the evidence you collected may be deemed as inadmissible in court. This can significantly impact the final verdict that may lead to the acquittal of an otherwise guilty defendant. Because of this, the steps mentioned above must be followed accordingly, from the collection of evidence to lab testing up to presenting in court.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the chain of custody plays a crucial part in the collection and management of evidence and can affect the final verdict in any legal case. It can be very disheartening to see weeks and maybe even months of hard police work simply go down the drain because of sloppy evidence handling.  Seeing that this can make a significant difference in legal matters, it is best to invest in evidence tracking software that can ensure the establishment of a secure and unbroken chain of custody.

We cater to law enforcement agencies by providing an affordable, flexible, and easy-to-use evidence tracking software in the US – get in touch with us today to see how we can help!