Proper packaging of evidence is a very important aspect in forensics. Properly packaging evidence will prevent loss of evidence, prevent cross contamination, provide correct chain of custody, and help answer questions that may come up in court. Below are some general guidlines for packaging evidence. These guidlines include the proper way to package, improper ways to package, and we will define what a proper seal is.
One of the most common questions asked about packaging evidence is whether to use paper bags or plastic bags. Plastic bags should only be used when submitting controlled substances. Paper bags should be used for packaging ALL biological evidence and impression evidence. If you are submitting casings for firearms analysis or flat impression evidence, a manilla envelope is sufficient.
(correct way to package biological or impressions evidence. Notice the bio hazard sticker)
(package items separately)
(sometimes you will have to be creative with how you package a piece of evidence. If creativity is needed, make sure you use proper supplies for the type of evidence you are sealing)
(Make sure you leave room for the analyst to gain entry into the evidence and place that evidence back into the original packaging. This particular item does not allow for either)
One problem we see often is improper seals on items of evidence. We define a proper seal as having initials 1/2 on and 1/2 off where the item of evidence was closed. Closing evidence includes heat sealing, bags with peel and stick seals, and taping bags closed. Proper seals prevent items of evidence from being tampered with.
(this is an example of a proper seal. Notice the initials and date are 1/2 on and 1/2 off the tape closing the bag. Remeber to do this on heat seals and the peel and stick seals. If it does not have an initial, it is not sealed.)
(Stapled items are not sealed properly)
(Stickers are not a proper seal)
(initials are not 1/2 on and 1/2 off)
There are amny different types of tape out there on the market. We only accept items that have been sealed with Scotch Brand Packaging tape. The 3M tape is no longer produced in the wider sizes.
(The tape pictured above is not acceptable)