In this article, the head of Evidence & Laboratory services at Robson Forensic, Bret Johnson, provides an introduction to the collection and storage of forensic evidence.
Forensic Evidence Management
Evidence management can be a critical component of the litigation process; missteps can bring significant consequences if evidence is lost, damaged, or unaccounted for throughout the chain of custody. The collection, logging, and storage of evidence is a meticulous process that requires strict attention to procedure and policy.
Robson Forensic employs a dedicated staff of evidence and laboratory professionals. We apply the same rigorous attention to this aspect of your case as we do to our investigations and analyses. In this article we share information on evidence management protocols and also link to additional information on our laboratory and evidence facilities.
Collection and Storage of Forensic Evidence
The process depicted below represents the typical steps involved in the collection and storage of evidence. Adherence to these processes becomes more critical in situations that involve large or hazardous materials. Additional policies and procedures are required for evidence analysis and for the disposition of evidence at case closure.
- Document evidence before/during collection and prior to transport. Attach evidence tag.
- Complete an evidence receipt form, include a listing for each item received.
- Package, and photograph evidence for storage. Attach label and copy of evidence receipt.
- Create digital and/or physical records to document custody information pertinent to evidence.
- Place evidence in numerical order in secure storage.
At Robson Forensic, we can accommodate the evidence requirements specific to your case. We offer secure, limited-access evidence storage at all of our office locations. We also maintain regional evidence facilities capable of vehicle and oversized item storage.
Forensic Evidence Vocabulary
- Evidence: Any physical or tangible item that tends to prove or disprove a particular fact or issue.
- Incident Evidence: Items most often collected at site inspections or sent to/secured by the Attorney. This evidence was directly or indirectly involved in the actual incident. An Attorney or Expert may not alter these items in any way without documented direction from the client OR by agreement at an inspection attended by all parties on notice. To do so may result in a claim of “Spoliation”.
- Spoliation: The loss, destruction, alteration or failure to preserve evidence in a legal proceeding. A proven spoliation claim may result in severe legal and financial ramifications and the loss of your case.
- Exemplar: An item that is identical or nearly identical to the incident evidence. This may be tested, dismantled, or ultimately destroyed through a given protocol. However, if the data and findings gleaned from an exemplar are cited in a report or used in court proceedings, it is now considered evidence. As such, the item is subject to the same standards and handling as “incident evidence”. Further, opposing council and experts have the right to examine these exemplar(s) in an inspection and question you at deposition/trial about your investigative actions.
- Chain-of-Custody: Documentation identifying all persons who have had custody of evidence and the places where that evidence has been kept in chronological order from collection to disposition. When done properly, the chain should be an unbroken trail of the collection, custody, control, transfer, and disposition of the evidence. Evidence derived from primary samples- such as DNA extracts from a laboratory analysis or components from the source product should also have its own chain of custody maintained to the same extent as the original evidence.
Evidence & Laboratory Specialists
The evidence & laboratory technicians at Robson Forensic bring cumulative experience from military, law enforcement, and the private sector. Our specialists are involved in standards organizations, such as ASTM, and complete ongoing professional training to remain abreast of changing industry standards and best demonstrated practices.
From engagement to disposition, our entire staff is on hand to assist your firm and answer any questions and assist with any challenges that may arise regarding your case evidence.
At Robson we leave nothing to chance, when you use our services you have some of the leading experts in the field at your disposal.
Evidence Inspection & Testing Laboratories
Robson Forensic offers fully appointed mechanical and biological testing laboratories to assist our clients with managing the storage and inspection of evidence. Our state of the art facilities can accommodate biological materials as well as a wide range of consumer and industrial products.
Bret Johnson is the head of Evidence and Laboratory Services at Robson Forensic, Inc. He is a member if the International Association of Property and Evidence (IAPE) and a Certified Property and Evidence Specialist (CPES). He has over 25 year’s industrial maintenance, fabrication and development experience. Bret is also certified as a First Aid/ First Responder, AED Administration, and in Blood Borne Pathogens.
Bret is available to answer any evidence storage or laboratory questions regarding our services and pricing. He is also available to assist with finding solutions to your Firm’s specific needs.