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Chain of Custody of Evidence in a Criminal Case

Understanding Chain of Custody in a Criminal Case

The chain of custody of evidence is one of the most important aspects of investigating the government’s case against a criminal defendant. Blood work, scientific evidence on weapons, and narcotics are usually the most common items where a break in the chain of custody can result in that evidence being suppressed (thrown out). If that happens, the prosecution’s case becomes much weaker and could result in dismissal of the case.

For instance, once a substance has been seized from an individual by a law enforcement officer and then packaged, it will be often sealed and transferred to the lab. Each time that package is transferred or the seal is broken, it should be known who did it and why it happened. Further, if where it was opened could affect the validity of any testing, that also causes a problem for admitting the evidence. In other words, chain of custody should establish four things: (1) who handled the evidence, (2) when it was handled, (3) why is was being handled, and (4) if any changes were made to the evidence during its handling.

Some departments will have specific policies and procedures that should be followed by officers, lab technicians, and evidence locker custodians. The importance of this is twofold: (1) that the evidence presented in court is the same evidence that was found in regards to the alleged crime, (2) that the testing of evidence wasn’t spoiled.

Contact a Criminal Lawyer to Evaluate the Evidence in Your Case

At Henderson & Waterkotte, P.C., our attorneys are skilled at evaluating and investigating the chain of evidence to determine if it can still be used against the defendant in a court of law. If you have been charged with a crime contact our firm anytime to discuss you rights and how to fight the government’s case against you. A lawyer is available 24/7.