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Evidence Collection, Research Paper Example

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Words: 1002

Research Paper

The process of collecting physical evidence in a criminal investigation in order to preserve it for the subsequent prosecution of the defendant has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. The topic itself has become more popular as the media has sensationalized its use and the technology has improved to the point that mistakes in its collection can provide a basis for an acquittal. Because of these factors, police agencies and criminologists have developed improved and strict protocols in an effort to ensure that all evidence is properly collected at a crime scene (U. S. Department of Justice, 1999).  This collected evidence is intended to assist the police in arresting the individual responsible for the crime and the prosecutor in obtaining a conviction.

The science behind evidence collection, identified as forensic science, has been used by police agencies in various forms for several centuries but improvements in science, particularly in the use of DNA, has caused the field to explode. Today, forensics has become a routine part of nearly every criminal investigation and indispensable in major crimes (Genge, 2002).

The areas where forensics is utilized are numerous but there are three major areas where the collection of evidence is most often used. These three areas: 1) blood sampling; 2) seminal stains; and, 3) firearms are the types of evidence that the general public most identifies with criminal crime scenes and the types that have been most heavily romanticized by the media and the entertainment industry.

Obviously blood is often found at criminal investigation scenes. Whether the crime involves an assault, murder, or a simple theft residual blood samples are often present but it is imperative that the police officers or crime lab personnel collecting such samples follow the approved protocol so that the evidence is properly preserved. Moisture of any kind can destroy the value of a blood sample so it is essential that wet blood samples be completely dried before being placed in a brown paper bag and dry blood samples should never be wiped with a moistened cloth or paper. All blood samples should be delivered as quickly as possible. Wet blood samples should be collected through the use of a cotton gauze pad, air dried, and then refrigerated or frozen. In collecting dried blood samples no attempt should be made to scrape or remove the sample from the object on which the sample is located. If possible the entire object or as much of the object as possible should be packaged and transferred to the laboratory as quickly as possible (Buckles, 2006).

Advancements in DNA make the proper collection of seminal stains extremely useful in the identification and prosecution of crimes involving sexual activity. Prior to the use of DNA evidence seminal stains were limited to identifying that sexual activity had occurred but could not be used to identify the perpetrator. Today that situation has been altered and, therefore, the collection of the seminal sample has obtained increased importance.

Seminal stains can be found on most any item at the crime scene but the treatment is the same regardless of where they are found. All stains must be allowed to air dry and packaged in paper of some form and placed in brown paper bag. Plastic must never be used to store the sample. Any other physical sample such as clothing should be handled sparingly and wrapped separately. Again, packaging should be done with paper and not plastic. If the objects remain damp or wet, they should be allowed to dry before packaging. Because of the unique nature of sex crimes, the clothing of the victim must also be properly preserved. Each item must be collected individually and preserved separately as well.

The use of firearms in the commission of a crime has received increased public attention in recent years and, therefore, so has the handling of all evidence related to such firearms. Defendants pay a heavy price for electing to use firearms in the commission of crimes with most states imposing mandatory time for such usage. Correspondingly, the police and criminal laboratory personnel collect firearm evidence as carefully as possible to avoid contaminating the evidence in any way.

Guns of all nature should never be transferred from the crime scene while loaded. Unspent bullets in magazines can be transferred but should be removed from the gun. The bore or barrel should be left untouched and no attempt should be made to clean them. Nothing of any kind should be placed in the bore or barrel. In the initial stages of the investigation any weapon used should be indentified through a means other than serial number. This means placing some form of mark on the weapon before transferring it to the laboratory. Serial numbers are often duplicated and an independent marking system avoids any possible confusion. If blood or other samples are present on the gun, the gun should be wrapped in paper and delivered in such condition to the criminal laboratory.

As indicated earlier, forensic science has assumed increased importance in the area of criminology. Modern science has proven to be a valuable asset in the investigation and prosecution of crimes and as the science continues to improve it should prove to be more valuable (Russell, 2009). The techniques and areas mentioned herein are only a small sample of the various ways that forensic science has impacted the criminal process. The involvement of science in criminal investigation has endless possibilities and it can be expected that its role will increase substantially in the coming years. The importance, however, of exercising proper technique in the collection of the evidence will not change and, as the science improves, the need for preciseness in collection technique becomes even more important.

References

Buckles, T. (2006). Crime Scene Investigation, Criminalistics, and the Law. Independence, KY: Cengage Delmar Learning.

Genge, N. E. (2002). The Forensic Casebook: The Science of Crime Scene Investigation. New York: Ballantine Books.

Russell, S. (2009, February 26). Re-mapping Forensic Science’s Future. Retrieved September 1, 2011, from Miller-McC une.com: http://www.miller-mccune.com/legal-affairs/re-mapping-forensic-sciences-future-3917/

S. Department of Justice. (1999). Crime Scene Investigation. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.

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