An unbroken chain of custody is essential for ensuring that evidence submitted to court is authentic and reliable. So what is a chain of custody form? The chain of custody documents how the original exhibit was collected, handled, and transferred to and from other individuals.
It also supports the credibility of witnesses who testify about their role in preserving and transporting the evidence. It demonstrates that they adhered to strict legal and ethical standards.
Recording Transfers of Custody
The chain of custody document is important to the evidence-collection process. Whether it is a physical object, such as a gun collected at a crime scene, or the more common digital form of evidence, the chain of custody document allows investigators to see who handled and accessed the item and the times and dates when these activities occurred. This must be done because evidence tampered with in any way can render it inadmissible for use in court.
Digital evidence has its own special set of challenges when maintaining an unbroken chain of custody. This is because, unlike a piece of paper or a physical object, digital data can easily be altered and manipulated by someone without detection. Therefore, digital evidence must be stored and accessed using specialized software that records every action taken with the data.
Tracker Products offers a solution that is specifically designed to meet these requirements. The system uses a version-controlled digital document that provides a complete history of changes made to the data and allows for a forensic audit. This allows a fully auditable chain of custody document to stand up to court scrutiny.
The chain of custody is essential in drug testing because it proves that the urine sample submitted by an employee or sports star has not been tampered with during its handling. It is, therefore, necessary that the specimen is collected by an individual who can identify the donor and that the specimen is kept in a controlled environment. The bathroom in which the specimen is taken must also meet specific requirements. This ensures that hidden contaminants, such as soap and bleach, cannot alter the test results.
Recording Transfers of Control
If you’re a professional in the legal industry, you know how crucial an unbroken chain of custody is to the integrity of your case. For example, if a digital piece of evidence is used in court proceedings, it must have a rock-solid chain of custody to ensure it wasn’t tampered with. Without an unbroken chain of custody, your case may be thrown out of court.
The goal of a chain of custody form is to document every change of ownership or possession of a specimen or piece of data. This includes any time the evidence is transferred from one person to another, whether it’s a police officer collecting blood at a crime scene or an employee taking charge of a drug test sample.
In the latter example, a chain of custody will include each transfer and any alterations made to the test sample between collection and reporting. Similarly, an unbroken chain of custody is essential for forensics and environmental sampling to prevent contamination and other accidental tampering.
Recording Transfers of Analysis
All individuals connected with a piece of evidence or data must have documented contact with it at every step of the process. This ensures that the chain of custody is unbroken and the evidence is trustworthy. If a link in the chain breaks, it could call into question the authenticity of that evidence or even the entire case it’s involved in.
For example, if an investigator collects a physical piece of evidence and fails to handle it correctly by not wearing gloves or using sterilized equipment, the evidence may get contaminated. This common problem can lead to forensic professionals being held liable for sloppy work.
Similarly, an improperly completed chain of custody form can also result in the court declaring the evidence inadmissible. This is because it creates doubts about whether the evidence was handled properly or tampered with at any stage of its examination and analysis.
For example, the lab can reject a urine drug test chain of custody form that does not follow proper testing protocol. This is because the urine sample can be diluted or even mixed with another specimen. This would lead to a false positive and jeopardize the test results. A chain of custody document must include:
- A specific number.
- Tamper-evident labels that match the form.
- A numbered barcode that ties the form and the sample together.
This makes it easy for the individual who had charge of a specimen at any point to be recognized quickly and summoned to testify during a trial.
Recording Transfers of Test Results
The chain of custody documents the seizure, custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition of physical or electronic evidence. It is a necessary step for preserving the integrity of evidence and ensuring that it is admissible in court or other legal proceedings.
For example, when drug testing a potential driver, it is important to record the identity and signature of everyone who touches the sample during the collection process and before it is sent to the laboratory for analysis. This allows the lab to determine whether or not anyone outside of those authorized to handle the sample had access to it.
Similarly, when recording metadata for a piece of data, it’s essential to know who created the file and what equipment was used. This can help you understand the data’s context and meaning and identify gaps in the chain of custody.
A faulty chain of custody can have serious consequences. In the OJ Simpson trial, defense lawyers were able to discredit crime scene blood evidence by showing that a police officer had not properly recorded who handled it on a chain of custody form.