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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Maintaining a Chain of Custody

Photo collage of a chain, evidence documents, and law enforcement agents
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

Documenting the chain of custody literally requires each person who touches an item of evidence to

Maintaining a Chain of Custody

  1. The same person or persons that recovered the evidence should initial, seal and send the evidence, or deliver it to an evidence locker.

  2. The law enforcement agency (court, police station or lab) should maintain the evidence in a locked vault, cabinet or room until it must be shipped or is needed for tests, discovery or trial.

  3. The person who is shipping or transporting an item of evidence should use a reliable shipping method that can accurately track items shipped.

  4. Each person who takes physical custody of an evidence item must sign for it as custody is taken.

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