Collection and preservation of documents from crime scene

An Indoor crime scene

The investigator, while reaching the crime scene, locates the evidence like documents during the preliminary search. After locating them, the most important thing is collecting and preserving them to send them to the laboratories through a maintained chain of custody. In this article, we’ll go through the different processes for document collection and preservation.

Documents found at the scene of a crime can be a normal document or a charred document. Collection and preservation of these exhibits is a must to lead the investigation in the right direction. Handling the document carefully and packaging it in suitable containers like cardboard boxes for charred documents and plastic sheets for a regular document.

Along with the collection and preservation, we’ll tell you about the investigation process and tell you how to investigate a crime scene and what precautions you need to take to handle a document.

Investigation of Documents at Crime Scene

While investigating a crime scene we can find documents as important evidence, the investigator must be careful to handle document evidence. The following point should be taken into consideration while investigating:-

  • Try to avoid careless handling of the document. Keep photocopies for the investigation process.
  • Don’t cut, tag, trim, or mutilate the document. Protect the document if found partially torn by adhesive tapes.
  • Never carry the document in your pockets to prevent them from moisture or heat. It might become wrinkled, soiled, or wormed.
  • Avoid exposing the document to sunlight, heat, and moisture.
  • Never fold the document; otherwise, it might create new creases.
  • Avoid its labeling by sticking any tag.
  • You can use paper clips to make a file together. Try to avoid punching or pinning.
  • Avoid underlining any part of the document. The date initials and identifying marks to the relevant portion of the document requiring examination can be put into the regions where they are least likely to interrupt the original writing.
  • Write the information regarding initials of date, should be on the opposite side of the document with a good quality writing instrument.
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Collection and Preservation of Documents from Crime Scene

The investigator needs to follow the subsequent instructions to collect, preserve, pack, and dispatch the exhibit, including the document examination:

  • Try to avoid the frequent and careless behavior to handle the document.
  • Protect the documents by keeping them between blank sheets of paper or transparent sheets of cellophane, polythene, or celluloid.
  • Try to avoid document exposure from sunlight and moisture.
  • No folding of documents unless it’s required. 
  • In any situation, try not to cut, erase, trim, or torn the document.
  • Never underline the document writing. You can draw an arrow to emphasize certain features.
  • Document photocopies are a must instead of tracing them.
  • Try to avoid punching or inning the document. Use paper clips if required.
  • Never lift the charred documents with tweezers. To lift the charred mass, insert the sheet of stiff paper beneath it and pull the paper. The whole mass is then transferred to a cardboard box carefully.
  • If necessary, strengthen the burnt document by spraying a dilute solution of polyvinyl acetate before collection. 
  • Pack normal documents in a stout cover or packet and should be sent to the examiner by a special messenger.
  • Encircle the questioned signature or writing with a colored pencil without crossing or touching the text matter.
  •  Mark all the questioned documents as Q1, Q2, Q3….etc. The same goes for the specimen sample as S1, S2, S3…..etc.
  • The essential information related to the investigation, like FIR copies, sample seal, seizer memo, etc., should be sent along with the exhibits.
  • Send only the relevant paper to the examiner.
  • The specific points on which expert’s view is necessary should be mentioned clearly in the forwarding letter.
  • Like other exhibits of evidentiary value, the recovery and dispatch of a questioned document should be recorded in the case diary.
  • Uncommon circumstances like illness, intoxication, moving vehicle, or old age, etc., related to this document, if alleged, should be revealed in the forwarding letter.
  • Document possession from person to person should be maintained and recorded carefully to keep the chain of custody intact.
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Before collecting and preserving documents for further examination, study all handwriting, typewriting, printing, and seal impressions carefully.

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