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Biological Evidence Preservation: Considerations for Policy Makers

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2015
25 pages
Nine recommendations on biological evidence preservation are offered by the National Institute of Justice's Working Group on Biological Evidence Preservation
First, "biological evidence" should be defined as "evidence commonly recovered during a criminal investigation in the form of skin, hair, tissue, bones, teeth, blood, semen, or other bodily fluids, which may include samples of biological materials, or evidence items containing biological material." Second, States should establish statutes, rules, or policies that require the automatic retention of biological evidence by government entities from collection through the time frames recommended in this report. Third, at a minimum, States should require biological evidence retention according to the time tables provided in this report. Fourth, States should establish statutes, rules, or policies that require biological evidence to be stored in appropriate environmental conditions, based on known scientific practices. Fifth, States should designate a statutorily mandated authority to establish and enforce standards consistent with best scientific practices for the proper retention, preservation, cataloging, and retrieval of biological evidence applicable to criminal investigations, prosecutions, and post-conviction proceedings. Sixth, at a minimum, the aforementioned authority should require the removal and preservation of evidence likely to contain biological evidence related to an offense when an agency disposes bulk evidence, i.e., evidence whose nature, size, or quantity makes its retention impractical. Seventh, States should construct a formal early evidence disposition process that includes the elements recommended in this report. Eighth, States should mandate that a defendant or petitioner have the opportunity to seek a remedy when a judge decides that a denial of access to biological evidence has occurred. Ninth, courts should consider an order for a physical search for biological evidence that cannot be located by the entity responsible for its retention.

Date Published: April 1, 2015