When it comes to handling evidence, maintaining the integrity of what you’ve gathered is crucial. A damaged evidence bag or one that hasn’t been stored properly can alter court cases or investigations.
When it comes to protecting your evidence, you can’t be too careful. Here are some of the protocols law enforcement experts recommend to provide proper storage.
You always need to start by using high-quality evidence bags. The best evidence bags will be able to withstand punctures or tears.
Evidence bags need to be properly sealed. Using tamper-evident plastic evidence bags make it obvious if there’s been an attempt to tamper with it.
Each item should be packaged separately to avoid cross-contamination. They must be properly labeled with a detailed description including the item, collection site, date, and the name of the person who collected it.
If multiple items of evidence from different cases are stored on a shelf, they should be placed in bins or boxes to avoid contamination or risk getting lost. Packages from the same case should be stored in the fewest containers or boxes possible and not stored in the same containers as those from other cases.
Climate control is important to the process. If evidence is damaged by humidity or excessive heat, it may not be useable when it’s needed. Humidity and heat can cause DNA to degrade. Biological evidence needs tight temperature controls. Most states have strict protocols for storage.
When working with biological evidence that cannot be dried, it may be required to store in a frozen state or kept in a room with little temperature or humidity fluctuations. Evidence should always be kept out of direct sunlight.
Law enforcement agencies may need a variety of climate-controlled areas for different types of evidence. As some evidence may need to be stored for long periods, care needs to be taken to have the appropriate storage facilities for both short-term and long-term storage.
Environmental controls should be documented along with temperature and humidity in storage areas and updated routinely. Conditions should be monitored for changes and appropriate actions taken if necessary. Even slight fluctuations can alter evidence or cause deterioration.
Proper storage protocols also call for documentation to maintain the chain of custody. Not only should there be a clear record of what happens to each piece of evidence from the time it arrives at the storage facility and every time it’s handled, but there should be formal documentation on the process and procedures to ensure proper care is taken.
To maintain the proper chain of custody, secure facilities are a must. Access should be limited and controlled to prevent unauthorized entry. Most departments are now using a combination of access control cards, surveillance cameras, access logs, and other security procedures.
Too many charges have been dismissed because of lost or misplaced evidence. During the intake process, it’s crucial to track forensic evidence in crime labs and evidence rooms. Many law enforcement agencies have instituted barcode and/or RFID technology for better tracking and accountability.
It’s clear that proper storage conditions matter. As the evidence bag of choice for law enforcement professionals, Superior Bag offers high-quality, secure options.
At Superior Bag, we believe that information is power. Don’t let an investigation fall to the wayside due to improper storage conditions. The Superior Evidence Bag™ is equipped with our patented D-Tec™ closure that will help your agency promote accountability, reduce liability, and preserve justice.