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Explaining the Proper Chain of Command for Evidence

Okabe & Haushalter Aug 11, 2018 Criminal Defense

All evidence must follow a proper chain of command if it is to be used effectively in a criminal case. If any evidence is improperly marked, documented, or lost it could jeopardize a case. If evidence is left out of the evidence room or winds up in the wrong hands it could lead to the dismissal of charges against a defendant in a criminal case. Today, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorney would like to discuss the proper chain of command when it comes to evidence.

Why Evidence Has to be Tagged

Evidence has to be tagged and tagged correctly so that the officers who worked on the case are able to identify each piece appropriately at a later date. The people responsible for tagging and bagging evidence are the crime scene investigator and the evidence recovery, technician. Their role in the chain of command is the most important because if evidence is not tagged or labeled correctly it can be thrown out of a case, leading to a mistrial or charges being dropped.

The Chain of Custody

The chain of custody begins on the crime scene with the investigator and the evidence recovery technician. If they fail to perform their duties as required then the chain of command is already broken and the evidence is considered contaminated. The exact definition for chain of command when it comes to evidence is the witnessed and written record of everyone who came in contact with the evidence and had unbroken control of it. Following the chain of command ensures that the evidence collected at the scene is the same evidence that is entered in the courtroom.

What is Established by the Chain of Custody?

The chain of custody establishes the following important items in a criminal case:

  • Who exactly came in contact with each piece of evidence
  • The date and the time when the evidence was contacted
  • The circumstances surrounding the contact with the evidence
  • If any changes were made to the evidence

Information That Must be on the Tag

Police officers and crime scene investigators are required to follow proper procedures for tagging evidence at the scene. No evidence should be removed from the scene if it has not been tagged, bagged, and logged. The following information must be on every evidence tag:

  • The date
  • The case number
  • The location where it was collected
  • Item description
  • Name and identifier of the person who collected the evidence
  • Serial number
  • Brand name

Almost all of the same information must be marked on the outside of the packaging for the evidence. This helps to maintain the chain of command should the tag fall off the evidence and cannot be found.

Issues with Chain of Command

Should you or your attorney have reason to believe that there are issues with the chain of command for evidence you can open an investigation into the matter. There very well could be missing evidence, improperly tagged items, or other issues that could lead to having your charges dismissed.

Are you facing a criminal charge? Contact the experienced and trusted team of Okabe & Haushalter in Los Angeles to discuss your case today.