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Page Title: Physical Handling of Evidence
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for  handling  evidence  from  initial  receipt  to  final disposition. Black’s Law Dictionary defines evidence as “Any species of proof, or probative matter, legally presented at the trial of an issue, by the act of the parties and through the medium of witnesses, records, documents, exhibits, concrete objects, and so on, for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the court or jury as to their  contention.” Said  another  way,  evidence  is anything that tends to prove or disprove any matter in question, or to influence the belief regarding it. The MCM, 1984, sets forth the rules of evidence to be used before courts-martial. As an LN, you will not be particularly concerned with the rules of evidence. Such matters are best left to the lawyers. However, you will be concerned with preserving evidence for use at trial. Constitutional  Requirements You have already covered the requirements for taking statements and conducting searches and seizures in chapter 5. Perhaps a review of chapter 5 would be helpful at this point. Unless the suspect or accused is afforded all the rights that he or she is legally entitled to, any evidence obtained from him or her, whether it be a statement or seized articles, may be contested in court and found inadmissible as evidence. Thus, it is very important that all legal rights be afforded the suspect or accused. Physical Handling of Evidence To admit lawfully seized items in evidence at trial they must be authenticated. That is, it must be shown that  they  are  what  they  purport  to  be.  Sheer administrative  convenience  dictates  that  all  evidence seized be tagged to indicate the following: l l l l l Date  and  time  of  seizure Location  of  article  when  discovered Identification  of  person,  if  any,  from  whom  the property  was  taken Name  of  person  seizing  evidence Name  of  suspect(s)  against  whom  the  evidence may be used The problem in getting evidence admitted, then, is one of proving to the court that the evidence offered is precisely  the  same  evidence  as  was  seized.  Dependent upon  the  characteristics  of  the  evidence,  in-court identification may be made by either of two means, and how  you  handle  the  evidence  will  depend  on  what method of in-court identification is contemplated. If  the  evidence  has  a  peculiar  identifying  feature, one familiar with that feature may identify the evidence by that feature in court. The use of a serial number to identify a typewriter is an example of this method of identification. Your sole concern with such evidence is to guarantee its presence in court, and this is done by providing  physical  security  until  the  trial. Evidence that does not have such an identifying feature  must  be  treated  with  greater  care.  Suspected marijuana cigarettes are an example of this kind of evidence.  To  demonstrate  that  the  proffered  evidence  is the same as that seized, the TC will have to show a chain of custody from the time of seizure until the time of trial. The  TC  will  prove  his  or  her  evidence  by  calling  a succession of witnesses beginning with the person who made  the  seizure  and  ending  with  the  person  who delivers the evidence to the court. Each witness will testify how he or she got the evidence; what, if anything, he or she did with it; and to whom he or she delivered it. The necessity of limiting access to the evidence and of keeping a record of those who have had control over the evidence is obvious. RECEIPT.—  The   Evidence/Property   Custody Document,  OPNAV  5527/22,  is  used  as  the  official record  of  receipt,  chain  of  custody,  and  final  disposition of items of physical evidence. The form normally is prepared with an original and three copies. Entries should be typed or printed in ink. The last or third copy is used as a receipt when evidence is received from an individual. The  original  and  other  two  copies  are presented to the evidence custodian who maintains the original and first copy. The second copy is returned to the  investigator  (master-at-arms  [MAA]  or  Naval Criminal  Investigative  Service  [NCIS])  for  submission of  the  evidence  for  inclusion  in  the  case  file.  An example  of  a  completed  evidence  custody  document  is shown in figures 6-23A and 6-23B. SAFEGUARDING.—  Each individual in the chain of custody is responsible for the care, safekeeping, and preservation  of  items  of  evidence.  Because  of  the sensitive nature of evidence, an evidence custodian assumes responsibility for the evidence when not in use by you or other competent authority involved in the investigation,  such  as  the  TC. The evidence custodian must be a commissioned officer, warrant officer, or an enlisted person E-6 or 6-37

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