Way back when this series first started we attended a crime scene. What I never delved into was the important task of handling and packaging the exhibits. So, I thought I would cover it today.
Exhibits can also be seized when you search someone’s house or business address.
In the case of a police officer taking hold of the exhibit and packaging it up, you are going to be writing about that in terms of searching an address rather than a crime scene. Your CSI’s will seize exhibits from the murder scene. (I’m presuming it’s murder.)
Taking and packaging an exhibit is a serious business. That item may prove to be the sole item that the whole case, your character’s case, hinges on. And if you haven’t packaged it all up correctly well, then you could be screwed.
Different items need packaging in different bags and containers so evidence is not lost. Mobile phones can be deleted remotely, destroying valuable information. Removing a computer from the power source the wrong way can mean it is set up to delete data or you trigger a new log in time. Digital forensics will not be happy with you. Arson evidence that holds vapours needs a special bag that can hold the vapours. There is so much to know, to remember, to do. And you have to be on the ball.
- Knives – A cylindrical hard plastic container in two parts where one slots over the other when you have slid the knife in. The cylinder in then sealed, wrapped with tape. This is to secure it and for evidential purposes also.
- Keys, books, paperwork, mobile phones – These go in a plastic evidence bag which comes with a seal and an exhibit label. Make sure the mobile phone is powered down. If your force has Faraday bags use them. (Bags that stop the signal.)
- Clothing – Paper bags. This is the difficult one. One item of clothing per bag, So one sock = one bag. (You get lots of different sized bags.) Then you have to get some tape and seal the bag at every opening so that no particle evidence can slip away. The seams of the bag have to be sealed. The top of the bag sealed down. Every single area that is not closed bag is taped.
- Bloody clothing – A paper bag as above, but then it goes in a forensic dryer at the station with a paper sheet underneath for particular evidence that may drop from it.
- Computers – These can be carried as is. A laptop may fit in a plastic bag but a tower won’t. Make sure you stick an exhibit label on it. Take the battery out before you remove the power lead of the laptop. Then take the lead from the back of the machine, not the wall, because there may be residual power in the chord. Same with the tower.
- Arson evidence – Vinyl bags.
If any item has blood on it, it does not go in a plastic bag as it can degrade in plastic. Whatever the item. It goes in paper. Every item you seize has an exhibit label. The person seizing the item signs the label, with their name and signature, the location, the date and time, and gives it a consequential number exhibit number. For instance RB1, RB2 etc. (Initials then 1, 2, 3…) Then the person acting as the exhibits officer takes it off them, logs it in the exhibits log and signs the label. They are then responsible for getting all items back to the station and logged into the property store.
For a murder case, the exhibits officer is usually set for the whole case and handles and is responsible for every single exhibit that comes through the case and exhibits include paperwork created by the team. For instance, the interview discs would be exhibits, visually recorded interviews are exhibits. Murder cases create hundreds of items for the exhibits officer to be responsible for. It’s a huge undertaking.
There are body fluids that are seized and taken but this is usually done by the CSIs so I’ve left all that off the list.
I hope this helped.
You can find all other posts in this series HERE.
Rebecca Bradley is a retired UK police detective with over 15 years UK policing experience. Seven of those years were in uniform and the rest in a specialist investigative department where She handled multiple, serious and complex investigations. She is now a crime writer and offers a police procedural fact-checking service, available to all crime writers setting their work in England or Wales.
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