Investigations | Section 5.1


Fundamentals of Criminal Investigations

Adam J. McKee, Ph.D.


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Section 5.1: Packaging and Drying Wet Evidence

If the item is wet, place it on a clean piece of paper and allow it to dry before packaging, or transport it for drying at a laboratory facility or a properly outfitted evidence holding area. If you have access to a drying rack, dry the item in it. Place a clean piece of paper on the floor of the drying rack.  Hang the item over the paper.

If you do not have a drying rack:

  • Lay a clean piece of paper on a clean, flat surface in a secure location where the item will not be disturbed and contamination will be minimized.
  • Carefully place the item on the paper.
  • Be sure to keep the stain intact in its original form and avoid transferring the stain from one area of the item to another.
  • Allow the item to dry naturally. Never expose it to heat, such as from a blow dryer. Avoid exposing the sample to direct sunlight.

Do not place two items in the same container for drying purposes. Clean the surfaces of the drying rack with a disinfectant such as a 10% bleach solution after the item has been dried and removed.

Drying Wet Documents

To scoop up wet single-page documents, use cardboard sheets, e.g., pieces of manila folders. Wet documents can be dried by placing them on a clean piece of paper towel or a sheet of window screen, and then placed in a secure location for drying. Sheets of clean paper towels, etc., should be spread beneath the area used to handle moist documents in order to collect any trace evidence that falls from the documents during handling. The items used to catch trace items may also need to be collected and handled as evidence.

DO NOT attempt to unfold wet documents, as this should ONLY be done by laboratory forensic document examiners. Documents in a container of water or other liquid may need to be kept in the liquid for transportation to the laboratory and processing by forensic document examiners. Depending on the nature of the investigation, it may be important to avoid potential contamination that results from handling two documents in the same area at the same time.

Packaging Dried Evidence

To scoop up wet single-page documents, use cardboard sheets, e.g., pieces of manila folders. Wet documents can be dried by placing them on a clean piece of paper towel or a sheet of window screen, and then placed in a secure location for drying. Sheets of clean paper towels, etc., should be spread beneath the area used to handle moist documents in order to collect any trace evidence that falls from the documents during handling. The items used to catch trace items may also need to be collected and handled as evidence.

DO NOT attempt to unfold wet documents, as this should ONLY be done by laboratory forensic document examiners. Documents in a container of water or other liquid may need to be kept in the liquid for transportation to the laboratory and processing by forensic document examiners. Depending on the nature of the investigation, it may be important to avoid potential contamination that results from handling two documents in the same area at the same time.

Collect and label the paper on which the object was dried. Place the paper into a labeled container, as needed. Carefully pick up and fold the paper on or over which the object was dried. Contain any trace evidence that may have fallen on the paper. Label the folded paper, indicating the evidence number of the item that was dried.

Packaging Dried Documents

Place dried documents between clean sheets of paper, such as paper towels or cardboard sheets, to provide a protective covering before placing them into labeled evidence containers. Label evidence containers before placing objects into them to avoid degrading existing evidence. Handle documents carefully to avoid bending, folding, or otherwise degrading them. Handle documents appropriately to protect any latent prints that may exist. Close the container and seal the entire opening with evidence tape. Write your initials and identification number and the date and time, as required, across the evidence tape seal.

Carefully pick up and fold the paper used as a catch-surface beneath drying documents. Retain any trace evidence that may have fallen onto this catch-surface paper from the evidence, by folding it inward from the corners. Then place the catch-surface paper in a labeled evidence container, as needed. Label the folded paper, indicating the evidence number of the item (e.g., “This paper was used below evidence #36 while it was drying”).

Repackage the object using the original packaging and container if possible. Save all original packaging with evidence if it is not used for repackaging. If the original container cannot be reused, label the container indicating the evidence number of the item  (e.g., “Original packaging for evidence #36.”) and put the labeled, original packaging into a new container with the evidence it was used to collect.


Key Terms

 


References and Further Reading

 

Modification History

File Created:  05/02/2019

Last Modified:  05/16/2019

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This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

Open Education Resource--Quality Master Source License


 

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