HANDLING EVIDENCE AS A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR
In an attempt to keep up with current investigative trends, I belong to several private investigative, informative and sharing sites.
Recently I came across an article on one of those sites where a private investigator was explaining on how to handle the collection of physical evidence as a private investigator.
The article goes into detail about how to correctly document any evidence prior to collection using photographs and a ruler. The author then proceeds to explain the actual collection of evidence.
During my thirty plus years as a law enforcement officer and approximately fifteen years as a Certified Crime Scene Investigator, I have conducted and supervised hundreds of complex crime scene investigations. Based on this experience, I want to comment on this article.
I did not see what state the author was from and it may be different there, but I want to point out that in Idaho, as a Private Investigator, you do not want to collect evidence from a crime scene.
The key word being “collect”. As a private investigator you want to properly document any evidence you discover using photographs and a ruler or other measuring device.
As a private investigator if you actually collect evidence at a crime scene you are opening yourself up to charges of obstructing and/or tampering with evidence.
Finding evidence law enforcement has missed is something I have come across working homicide cases usually during the review of the evidence and or the crime scene.
The correct procedure to follow if you are asked to assist with an investigation and it happens that you come across evidence that law enforcement failed to recognize or find at any crime is as follows:
When you first identify something that you can see is of evidentiary value or relevant to your case, document via pictures. Remember you can’t take enough photographs and usually will only have one chance at this. You want to take several pictures of the item from several different angles and distances and at times different light settings.
Make sure to photograph how this is relevant. Remember that a close up won’t show you distance from specific areas, if this is something you want to prove.
It is very important in blood evidence, to document distance between where it originated and where it was discovered.
Remember to photograph first as it is found without any foreign items in your photograph. You should also have photographs with some type of measuring device so the person viewing the photograph can have an understanding of the actual size of this item.
When photographing shoeprints or tire prints, you need to make sure and document size, length and width.
And sometimes it’s just as important to photograph the area after the item has been removed.
One very important fact when taking photographs of physical evidence is to take the photograph at a ninety-degree angle. This is done to show the viewer the correct dimensions of the item you are photographing.
Once all the above has been completed by you then it is time to have law enforcement collect the evidence.
It has been my past experience that most law enforcement agencies will collect this evidence once they have been told of its existence.
Having a background in working criminal cases and the collection of evidence I am usually able to convince the agency of the importance of it being examined or tested.
This is why it is important not to just hire or use any private investigator but to check and inquire into their experience and background.