Investigations | Section 5.2


Fundamentals of Criminal Investigations

Adam J. McKee, Ph.D.


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Section 5.2: Item Specific Packaging Procedures

Clothing

Label a container that will be used to collect the object.  Document the location of the garment with photography, measurement, and sketching, where appropriate. If wet, dry according to guidelines. Fold garment and, whenever appropriate, wrap the garment in clean paper.

When folding a garment or large object:

  • Do not crumple or wad any portion of the garment.
  • Fold the garment only enough so that it fits into the container.
  • Do not crease the stained area.
  • Make sure, if using paper, that the paper protects trace evidence and prevents transferring the stain to other areas of the garment

Only wrap an item if wrapping the object will not disturb the position of a stain or mark. An item should be wrapped in clean paper when the location or pattern of the stain or mark is significant (such as a handprint or spatter pattern). Position the paper to keep the stain or mark intact in its original form. Avoid transferring any of the stain or mark to another portion of the object. Mark package with appropriate Biohazard cautions regarding contents.

Place the item into the labeled container, such as a paper bag. The container should be large enough to allow air to circulate around the object inside of it. If an object is too large to be packaged in a container, protect the stained area(s) with clean paper during transport. Close the container and seal the entire opening with evidence tape. Write your initials and identification number, and the date and time across the evidence tape seal.

Portable Objects

Label a container that will be used to collect the object. Document the location of the object with photography, measurement and sketching, where appropriate. Dry, if wet, by placing it on or over a clean piece of paper and allowing it to dry before packaging; or dry in place. Whenever appropriate, wrap the object in clean paper. Only wrap an item when wrapping the object will not disturb the position of a stain or mark.

Objects should be wrapped in clean paper when the:

  1. Location or pattern of the stain or mark is significant (such as a handprint or spatter pattern).
  2. Object is saturated and liquid will leak through the container if not wrapped.

Position the paper to:

  • Keep the stain or mark intact in its original form.
  • Avoid transferring any of the stain or mark to another portion of the object

Place the object into the labeled container. If an object is too large to be packaged in a container, protect the stained area(s) with clean paper during transport. Close the container and seal the entire opening with evidence tape. Write your initials and identification number, and the date and time across the evidence tape seal.

Parts of Non-portable Objects

Label a container that will be used to collect the object. Document the location of the stain with photography, measurement and sketching, where appropriate. When multiple stains are found, take one or more photographs that show the relationship among those stains. It is important to collect the entire stained area if the shape of the stain is significant (such as a handprint). If possible, cut out the entire stained area using a clean scalpel, utility knife, or scissors, including a large portion of the non-stained area.

If the stain has been absorbed into multiple layers (such as carpet and carpet pad), collect a cut-out from each layer.  If the entire stained area is too large to collect, cut out a smaller section of the area. Opposite the stained side, mark the orientation of the cut-out: for example, mark the area that pointed north, when collected. If the cut-out is wet, place it on clean paper and allow it to dry before packaging.

Whenever appropriate, wrap the object in clean paper if wrapping the object will not disturb the position of a stain or mark. Objects should be wrapped in clean paper when the:

  1. Location or pattern of the stain or mark is significant (such as a handprint or spatter pattern).
  2. Object is saturated and liquid will leak through the container if not wrapped.

Position the paper to keep the stain or mark intact in its original form. Avoid transferring any of the stain or mark to another portion of the object.

A control sample should always be collected. Label a second container with your initials and identification number, the date and time, evidence number, location of the control in relation to the original sample, and description of the control sample.

Each piece of evidence, including the control sample, must have a unique number. A letter or number may be appended to the original evidence number to denote the control sample; e.g., If the original evidence number was #32, the control sample could be #32A or #32.1.

The description of the control sample should  include:

  • Type of material
  • Location of material
  • Location of the control sample in relation to the stain

Collecting a Control Sample

Cut out a portion of unstained material. First, locate an unstained area of the same material from which the original sample was taken. Select the least contaminated area possible (such as an unstained area of carpet). Cut out the control sample using a scalpel, utility knife, or scissors. (Use a clean blade; never use a blade that was used to cut another sample.)

If multiple layers (such as carpet and carpet pad) of material were collected in the original sample, collect multiple layers for the control. On the side of the cut-out opposite the stained side (of the original non-control sample), mark the orientation of the cut-out to the north when collected. If the cut-out is wet, place it on clean paper and allow it to dry before packaging. Package the control sample separately from the corresponding stained material. Place the cut-out in the container. Close the container and seal the entire opening with evidence tape. Write your initials, identification number, and the date and time across the tape.

Stains on Nonporous Surfaces

Label a container that will be used to collect the item. Document the location of the stain with photography, measurement, and sketching, where appropriate. When multiple stains are found, take one or more photographs that show the relationship among those stains. Pre-label with distinguishing markings any swabs that you will use. If the stain is dry, moisten the cotton tip of a swab using two or three drops of distilled water.

If the stain has some residual moisture in it, touch the dry swab tip to the moist area of the stain. To avoid contamination, do not touch the cotton tip of the swab to any surface other than the sample area. Hold the bottle of distilled water, or a one-time use vial of sterile water, above the swab. Use a minimum amount of water to moisten the swab: drop two or three drops of water onto the swab.  Do not touch the tip of the water bottle to the swab.

Do not saturate the swab. (It should be moist, but not dripping wet.) Swab the stain with the cotton-tipped end of the swab. Touch the swab gently and firmly to the stain. Rotate the swab to ensure that the stain is collected on as much of the cotton tip as possible. Do not smear the stain when swabbing it. Dry the swab in a sterile container, swab dryer or drying box. If necessary, break off the end of the swab so it fits into the drying container.

Place the swab into a bindle; fold the bindle so it seals around the swab. Close the bindle and place it into an envelope large enough to allow air to circulate around the object inside of it. If the swab is thoroughly dried, it can be placed directly into a pre-labeled envelope. If no bindle or swab drying box is available, use another sterile container that can hold the swab while it dries. Ensure that the swab is positioned so that air freely circulates around it.

Close the envelope or other container and seal the entire opening with evidence tape. Write your initials and identification number, and the date and time across the evidence tape seal.

A  control sample should also be collected. Label the second envelope with your initials and identification number, the date and time, evidence number, location of the control in relation to the original sample, and description of the control sample. Each piece of evidence, including the control sample, must have a unique number. A letter may be appended to the original evidence number to denote the control sample. The description includes location of the control sample in relation to the original stain.

To collect a control sample, moisten the cotton tip of the second swab using two or three drops of distilled water. Swab an unstained area of the same surface from which the original swab was taken. Dry the swab and package in the same manner as the stained sample.


Key Terms

 


References and Further Reading

 

 

Modification History

File Created:  05/02/2019

Last Modified:  05/02/2019

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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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