Evidence Processing: Methods, Guidelines and Justice
Evidence collection is the responsibility of criminal justice, crime scene investigation and forensics professionals to help assure the legal system is able to properly discover the guilt or innocence of an accused criminal. Evidence can be physical evidence, such as in the case of murder or assault investigations, or may be electronic or computerized, such as in fraud or embezzlement cases, or a combination of different types of evidence. Regardless of the category of evidence, it is the processing of these pieces of information that may be more important than the evidence itself.
Prosecutors, especially, must be diligent and detail-oriented when it comes to evidence admitted during a trial, as even the smallest error in the processing of evidence can exonerate a criminal based on a technicality. On the other side of the court, if evidence processing is not done correctly, an innocent person may be convicted of a crime that was never committed, based on speculation and circumstantial evidence over catalogued evidence. Because of these two situations, the reality of the forensics professional is that the work performed in evidence processing can literally mean life and death for a person.
Evidence that is introduced during a court trial generally falls under four categories: real, demonstrative, documentary and testimonial. Real evidence is the type of evidence that is gathered from a crime scene and may include DNA, blood or weapons, as well as the results of toxicology or blood alcohol tests and even the data extracted from a suspect’s computer, mobile phone or other electronic device. It is this type of evidence that is hard to refute by defense attorneys that requires the careful processing and documentation, establishing the chain of handling or other information about where, when, and how the evidence was collected. With the proper measures taken in processing real evidence, the likelihood of a fair trial is more evident and helps keep criminals off the streets, and the innocent free. Academic programs that focus on the different means of procuring, analyzing and cataloguing evidence, such as a Crime Scene Investigator Certificate or Degree, can be beneficial to those within the field of criminal justice, forensics and legal studies.
Keeping evidence intact and using the correct tools and procedures as it is discovered and processed is one of the most important factors in the criminal justice system. Forensic professionals, crime scene technicians and law enforcement officers can be invaluable in the strict adherence to evidence processing methods and guidelines, creating a safe environment for those seeking justice within the criminal justice system.