Evidence Packaging & Labeling
This step is of vital importance because properly packaged and labeled evidence is easier to keep track of and is easier to confirm as uncompromised. Improperly labeled evidence, on the other hand, or evidence that is not in a sealed box or bag, can get lost or be subject to challenge.
How to set up an evidence packaging station:
1. Locate a desk, table, or other workspace near the evidence intake area.
Keep it clear to prevent potential contamination of evidence.
2. Store supplies in a convenient location.
- Rubber gloves
- Evidence bags
- Evidence boxes of various sizes
- Evidence tape
- Heat sealer (for sealing bags)
3. Ensure that supplies are replenished regularly.
If an officer leaves evidence unattended to go looking for supplies, that’s a break in the chain of custody.
4. Post protocols for easy reference.
After evidence is properly packaged and labeled, it’s ready to be handed off to an evidence technician. At this point the evidence is leaving the officer’s custody and it must be secure.
Options for receiving evidence:
1. Pass-through Evidence Lockers
This is the simplest and most secure way to transfer evidence from the officer’s possession to the evidence room. An officer places evidence into a locker on one side of a wall and secures the door, and then an evidence technician retrieves the evidence via an access panel on the other side of the wall.
2. Non-pass Through Evidence Lockers
An officer deposits evidence into an evidence locker and secures the door, and the same door is opened later by evidence technician.
3. Hand-carried Evidence
Every department should have a protocol detailing how hand-carried evidence is to be transferred from an officer to an evidence technician.
4. Mailed Evidence
As with hand-carried evidence, the department should have a protocol for sending and receiving mailed evidence.
Get the Evidence Management Guide Book
Evidence needs to be passed back to officers for presentation in court. Also, evidence that was improperly packaged or labeled needs to be passed back so the submitting officer can correct mistakes. Evidence can be passed back in person or with a pass-back locker or so-called “trouble locker”. No matter which method is used, the transfer must be documented according to protocol.
Purging Evidence/ Returning Property
Evidence can be purged after the District Attorney or other jurisdictional authority gives permission. Purging evidence might involve responsible disposal or returning the property to its owner. Statute of limitations regulations vary depending on the alleged crime and jurisdiction, so be sure to consult with the proper authorities before purging evidence.
Evidence should be tracked all along its journey. There are a variety of commercial software options for evidence tracking, or your department or agency can devise a proprietary system.