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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Knowing Relevant Lab Policies for Evidence Disposition

Rules about final disposition of evidence will vary by jurisdiction: lab policy or state law may prescribe how and where to retain evidence. Case documentation must reflect the disposition of evidence, including any consumption of the sample in the process of testing and analysis.

Some local, regional or state crime labs may have agreements with associated law enforcement agencies about where evidence is kept for long-term storage. In the absence of such an agreement, labs must make arrangements for the final disposition of evidence. In light of scientific advances and expansion or elimination of statutes of limitations for certain crimes, forensic testing may be attempted on evidence that is decades old. For this reason, even with limited long-term storage space, many jurisdictions are moving toward indefinite storage of evidence items containing potential biological material. The analyst plays a key role in documenting, protecting and preserving this vital evidence in perpetuity.

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