Crime Scene Investigations and Gathering Evidence
One of the best ways to fight a criminal charge is often to challenge the evidence in the case. The prosecution will need to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, which likely means that they will have to rely on evidence gathered during the crime scene investigation. In fact, it is very possible that the prosecution will be unable to successfully make their case against a defendant without getting the evidence admitted during trial.
How Crime Scene Investigators Collect Evidence
Thanks to TV shows and movies featuring criminal investigators, everyone is probably familiar with the idea that the police follow very specific rules and adhere to very particular procedures when collecting evidence. However, some of these rules and procedures differ from what is depicted in popular entertainment. Here are a few things you may not already know about crime scene investigations in New Jersey:
- Documentation is crucial. Investigators must carefully document everything that occurs at a crime scene. This is not just limited to the evidence that they find. A crime scene investigator should also take notes on the conditions at the scene and record any relevant observations they have during the evidence-gathering process. Sometimes this documentation can involve taking photographs.
- Crime scene investigators must avoid contaminating the scene. The investigators have to be careful to avoid disturbing a crime scene in a way that contaminates the evidence. One wrong step or gesture can potentially destroy evidence – or at least cast enough doubt about the evidence to get it ruled inadmissible in court.
- The crime scene investigation must occur in a timely fashion. It is critical that forensics experts and crime scene investigators conduct their examinations as soon as possible. In fact, NJ law requires that the evidence-gathering process occur before the crime scene becomes contaminated. The reality is that a lot can happen in a short period of time, including weather conditions causing deterioration of evidence and evidence of a crime disappearing or being removed from the scene. If the crime scene investigators wait too long to gather evidence, it is possible that any evidence they find will be ruled inadmissible at trial.
- Evidence must be preserved. The crime scene investigators must collect the evidence in such a way that it can be preserved for later testing in a lab. For instance, just because a white substance appears to be an illegal drug doesn’t mean that it actually is an illegal drug. The suspected narcotics must be tested in a laboratory before they can be used as evidence at trial.
- Chain of custody must be followed. There are legal requirements for ensuring that evidence gathered at a crime scene always remains in the custody of someone with the necessary qualifications. When the evidence is transferred from one person to another person, everyone involved in the transfer and tasked with handling the evidence must be properly credentialed. Moreover, this chain of custody must be documented. If chain of custody is broken for any reason, it will be difficult for the prosecution to guarantee that the evidence hasn’t been contaminated.
If you have been charged with a crime in Atlantic City or anywhere else in NJ, you should speak with a qualified criminal defense lawyer immediately. The aggressive criminal defense attorneys at Brown Law can help you beat your charges. Contact us now to schedule a free consultation about your case.