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1 – Crime scene documentation is extremely important in criminal cases. Documentation can be done through a lot of different means: writing, photographs, video, evidence collection, etc. Ideally the documentation preferably should be done during the initial reporting. When I was a Field Training Officer, I always told my recruits to “paint a picture.” Imagine a patrol officer arriving to take a report for a domestic violence. When the officer goes inside to speak with the victim, they notice injuries to the victim, the inside of the residence is trashed showing an altercation and there is blood on the ground. All of this should accurately and effectively be documented in their report. Describe the injuries in detail and the location of the injuries. Describe how the residence is in disarray. Lastly, a great way to document this outside of writing it down in a report is taking photographs. Video is another form of documentation that has come quite popular due to body worn cameras. This new piece of technology can shed light on crime scenes when officers initially arrive on scene and statements can be heard by involved parties/victims/witness/suspects.
As I mentioned in the first paragraph documentation of the crime scene ideally should be completed at the time of the initial report. However, sometimes this is not completed or properly done and may require a search warrant at a later time for the crime scene to be processed and documented.
The purpose of documenting a crime scene is to help the investigator and prosecutor present the case during trial. Effectively documenting a crime scene helps show the judge and jury what the scene looked like during/after the crime. This assists the trier of fact on finding the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt or not guilty. The sole purpose of effectively documenting the entire crime scene is to obtain a conviction and eliminate any doubt.
For example: I am serving a warrant three weeks after the initial report was completed. The reason I am going back to this residence is to properly document my crime scene and look for additional evidence of some other crimes I suspect were committed. The case involves neglect and exploitation of an elderly person and the condition of the home needs to be photographed. The disgusting living conditions of the home should be photographed so the judge and jury can have a visual image of the residence.
2 – The purpose of crime scene documentation is to collect and preserve evidence so that it may be used in the court of law. Documentation of a crime scene should take place whenever a violent crime has been committed. A violent crime is much more than a homicide. It could be a robbery, burlugary, sexual assult, or any lethal enforcment encourters. Whether documentation should take place is truly up to the case agent. Based on their assessment of the crime, it is up to them to request crime scene investigators. There are a series of steps that must be taken in order to properly document a crime scene. The first step for a forensic specialist that has arrived on scene is to speak with the case agent to understand the circumstances of the crime. After that, a walk through is performed, in which the case agent will point out any items that they believe are significant to the crime. After the walk through photographs are taken to document the scene. After that placards are laid out near the evidence items. Then a sketch is created. The sketch includes the items that were placard, and measurements of the scene. After this, the evidence items can be collected. The evidence items are labeled based on what they are and their location, and of course the time it was collected. Once the evidence is collected, the scene can be processed for latent prints or DNA, depending on the case and the wishes of the case agent. A last walk through will be done with the detective to ensure that all evidence was collected. Before the crime scene technician leaves the scene, they must make sure that each evidence item is accounted for and properly documented. Once that is completed, the crime scene specialists can return to the station and lock away the evidence so that it may be transferred to the property unit later.
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