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Collecting DNA Evidence at Property Crime Scenes

Trace Evidence

Photo of evidence being traced
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

Trace evidence, such as hair, fiber, glass and paint chips, is a type of physical evidence that is small and transient, but measurable. When larger items of physical evidence are subjected to closer examination in the laboratory, trace evidence may be detected.   

The importance of trace evidence can be critical to an investigation. Awareness of this type of evidence cannot be overemphasized. Photographing the area where any evidence is collected not only provides documentation of the collection but also assists in locating trace evidence.

Even if identification cannot be made in the laboratory, the investigator and prosecutor may use trace evidence as part of a convincing circumstantial case. Skill and effort during collection, testing and case preparation can help ensure a successful presentation of trace evidence in the courtroom.

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