Protocols for Storage of Physical Evidence by the Board

Protocols for Storage of Physical Evidence by the Board

The Evidence Review Board (“Board”) requires all evidence to be sent to one Board member at a specific address. The Board member may forward evidence to other Board members for examination, to other “experts”, and/or to a DNA or other forensics laboratory.

Prior to submitting evidence, a Board member will contact the submitter to discuss the potential evidence and offer advice to the submitter on how to package and how to ship the evidence to the Board.

GENERAL HANDLING

Evidence should be collected, handled and stored in a way that will insure integrity. The Board will follow these same guidelines.

  • Protect yourself and others
  • Protect the evidence
  • Consider all types of forensics evidence
  • Document the chain of custody
  • Document location with notes, sketches and photographs
  • Mark evidence and packaging with identification, description, initials, date Package evidence separately
  • Allow wet biological stains to air dry
  • If needed, obtain standards for comparison
  • Use packaging appropriate for the type of evidence (such as paper bags, envelopes, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, tamper-proof sealing, etc.)
  • Select packaging size that will allow the item to be removed and replaced during examination

SPECIAL NOTES PERTAINING TO PLASTER CASTS

Package in a cardboard box or a paper bag. Carefully securing the item to the bottom of a thin cardboard box is a good way to protect flat impressioned items. Do not attempt to clean all the debris of a casted impression because there could be hair or other important evidence attached to the casting material. Include photographs of the impression; these should also be properly packaged and submitted with any casts.

SPECIAL NOTES PERTAINING TO BIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE SAMPLES

In general, wet or moist biological evidence should be dried and packaged into clean and previously unused paper containers (e.g., envelopes, bags, cardboard boxes.) Do not wrap the evidence first in plastic and then inside paper (or vice versa) as this could cause the evidence to degrade. Package each item separately and seal and label each container. Also mark the packaging with a “BIOHAZARD” label.

Biological evidence is best maintained dried at temperature controlled room temperature, in individually package paper bags. If evidence cannot be air dried, liquid evidence should be refrigerated, and wet evidence should be frozen. Special approval may be required prior to submitting and liquid or wet evidence.

SPECIAL NOTES PERTAINING TO LATENT PRINT EVIDENCE

The most common form of latent print processing in the field is powder processing (dusting for latent prints.) Field processing should only be done when the item containing the print is too large to be transported. If the item is small enough, the item should be collected and transported for latent print processing. If an item is going to be submitted for latent print processing, no field processing should be conducted before submitting the evidence. However, if the item was processed prior to submission, try to carefully package the item to prevent smudging of the latent print. Document and submit information with the item describing the extent of prior field processing that was done to the item. 

Latent print evidence should be packaged in paper (manila envelope, brown paper bag, or cardboard box.) The packaging should minimize any movement of the object without being too restrictive to cause wiping/rubbing which may destroy the latent print on the object.

Avoid exposure to water or dampness. If the item with the suspected print was wet or damp when found, be sure it is air-dry before packaging for shipment.

Submitters of evidence should refer to the following table for guidelines for collecting and packaging latent print evidence:

PACKAGING EVIDENCE FOR SHIPPING

The type of packaging chosen depends on the type of evidence and the examination to be performed. The following table can be used as a guideline for the proper way to package it. All packaging types should be clean and unused (e.g., no recycled grocery bags.) The Board will follow these guidelines when storing evidence.

A proper seal insures that evidence has not been accessed, altered, compromised, or lost during transport or storage. Evidence seals should be tamper-evident (e.g., heat seals, tamper evident adhesive seals, tamper-evident tape, etc.) Sealed evidence should be initialed and dated.

When possible, the initials should cross over the seal in such a way as to provide visual indication of entry into the evidence packaging if the seal is broken. Staples and other sealing techniques can be used IN ADDITION to the appropriate tamper-evident seal to help keep the container closed.

CHAIN OF CUSTODY

The Board will maintain a chain of custody for all physical evidence from the time of receipt to the return to the submitter. Appropriate forms will be affixed to evidence containers containing identification of the evidence, date received, date seal broken, signature of person breaking the seal, purpose for breaking the seal, date resealed, initials of person resealing, date returned to submitter, initials of person returning evidence to submitter and shipping information/receipts.

MAILING

Evidence may be submitted to the designated mailing address by one of the following methods:

  • Personal/individual delivery (advance arrangements are required before delivery)
  • First Class U.S. Mail
  • Federal Express
  • United Parcel Service

For all methods, care should be taken to ensure that evidence is not lost, damaged, or contaminated and that the chain of custody can be established and maintained once it is received by the Board.

Upon receipt by the Board, the evidence packaging will be the Board member will examine the evidence, attach a tamper-evident seal, initial the seal, and fill out the appropriate chain of custody forms.

LOT NUMBER FOR IDENTIFICATION AND TRACKING

When the evidence is first received and inspected, a lot number will be assigned for identification and documentation purposes. The unique lot number will be comprised of four parts. The first part will identify the type of evidence. The second will identify the date received. The third part will denote the method of delivery. And the fourth part will be the initials of the Board member who first received the evidence materials. Refer to these code guidelines:

Codes for type of evidence = A (audio), P (photograph), V (video), C (cast), L (latent prints), B (biological material such as blood, soft tissue, saliva, urine, finger nail, tooth, bone), H (hair), S (scat).

Codes for month received = J (January), F (February), M (March), A (April), Y (May), E (June), U (July), T (August), S (September), O (October), N (November), D (December).

Codes for method of delivery = US (US Mail), FE (Fedex), UP (United Parcel), PP (person-to-person hand delivery), EM (email).

Initials of the Board member who first received the evidence materials = first letter of fist name and first letter of second name.

Example: a submitter sends an Audio recording on a SD card via US Mail to John Doe’s address.    John Doe receives it on July 5, 2016.

(Type-Date-Delivery method-initials)

A-U0516-US-JD

A tag or label will be permanently affixed to the outside of the original shipping package, indicating the lot number identification. This lot number will remain for the life of the evidence while stored by the Board, from the time the evidence was received until the time the evidence is disposed of. This unique lot number will be used as part of the evidence’s official description and will be used on all logs and chain of evidence documentation as a unique identification number.

STORAGE OF EVIDENCE BY BOARD MEMBERS

Evidence will be stored by the Board member who initially receives the evidence materials from the submitter. Generally, when suitable, the evidence will be kept inside the original shipping package, provided the evidence was packaged in the appropriate manner (refer to the Evidence Packaging Table, above.) Alternatively, the Board member may choose to enclose the evidence in a larger container more suitable for safe storage. (Plastic tubs, cardboard file boxes, manila envelopes, etc. may be used as required, in accordance with the Evidence Packaging Table, above.)

The evidence will be examined, the lot number will be affixed to the exterior of the package and evidence tamper-proof tape will be placed to properly seal the package. A document will be affixed to the outside of the package for documenting the chain of custody. Each time the seal is broken, an entry will be made on the log and a new seal will be affixed after the package is reclosed.

(Refer to the section on sealing, above.) Each time a seal is broken and a new seal is added, the new seal will be initialed and logged on the chain of custody document.

The following table shows the preferred method (temperature control) for storing different types of evidence. The Board will make every attempt to follow the standards for storing evidence with the appropriate environmental-temperature controls.