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DNA - A Prosecutor’s Practice Notebook Inventory

Transporting DNA Evidence

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In transporting the sample to the laboratory, prosecutors need to remember that evidence items must be accounted for at all times and that this is documented through the chain of custody.  While hand delivery is preferred, this may be impractical. Express shipment companies can continually track the shipment during transit. In most jurisdictions, the prosecution is not required to show a perfect "chain" and the defense may be required to establish a basis for believing the evidence has been altered [F.R.E Rule 901(a)].  All evidence should be properly packaged and sealed to maintain the integrity of the shipment and the safety of laboratory personnel.

Essential chain-of-custody parties for a sexual assault kit can often be limited to the doctor or nurse who collected the samples and sealed the kit.  The medical professional can testify to this process and to the fact that, the last time they saw the kit, it was sealed.  Prosecutors need to establish what this process means through the doctor or nurse involved in the collection process. The prosecutor must also establish through the DNA analyst that when he or she received the sample, it was in a sealed condition with no evidence of tampering and that it was only then that the analyst broke the seal and conducted the appropriate testing.

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