When you work in law enforcement, you’re probably well-informed on the chain of custody process. But understanding the chain of custody isn’t always obvious. When you want to learn more, it’s best to start at the beginning. Knowing what chain of custody actually means can help you see how agencies can control all of their evidence correctly.
What is the Chain of Custody?
In order to submit evidence to the court for consideration, agencies have to follow a strict process called the chain of custody. This is designed to protect the integrity of evidence so nothing gets tampered with or lost. Both physical evidence and electronic evidence are held to these standards.
Typically, a legal document is used to track the transfer of evidence from one person or department to another. Having a written record of where the samples or files have been—or, for digital records, who has accessed them—helps keep everyone accountable for a seamless, organized handling of evidence.
Chain of Custody Requirements
For a chain of custody to be complete and accurate, there can’t be any discrepancies or gaps. Every step must be documented, and there needs to be a clear name or department listed for each possession, including a date and time. Above all, these transfers must be done securely.
One part of meeting these requirements is to include the necessary case number with each piece of evidence. Specific serial numbers can help keep the chain of custody intact, as can restricted access codes for electronic files. For example, with video recordings for interview evidence, agencies need to be able to lock the login information with passcodes. Limiting capabilities within the redaction software can also help ensure that only relevant individuals and parties have access to the complete footage.
Interview Evidence Chain of Custody
Maintaining the chain of custody looks different from physical evidence to electronic evidence. The protocols for physical evidence include tamper-evident bags. Electronic evidence has its own regulations. When looking at video recordings for interview evidence, there are a few helpful tech functions and user-friendly features that help keep the chain of custody in order.
An automatic time-and-date stamp with each set of redactions is probably the most important role of redaction software. Users need to know exactly where edits have been made to the original interview recording. Along with that, it’s also important to have time-and-date stamps for each user’s annotations. This makes it easier to organize evidence and track how the interview is being presented to the court.
Redaction software should also have a built-in audit trail to correspond with the chain of custody report. This will show exactly who has accessed the original and redacted files and should include details for the exact day and time. In addition, these notes should detail whenever footage has been copied—whether as a separate video file to a USB, or exported to a DVD. The audit trail will help keep your evidence compliant with all of the court proceedings.
Our interview recording equipment at iRecord is specially designed to meet the strict demands of the chain of custody. If you have questions or concerns about how your agency can improve your process, please send us a message. We’d be happy to schedule a time to talk through your options for secure interview room recordings!