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Chain of Custody and Its Importance

The Chain of Custody, or Evidence Transmittal Letter, is a very important document that must accompany your evidence when submitting samples to the laboratory for analysis.  This is especially true if the case goes into litigation.  It is also very important for other types of regulatory compliance testing when auditors are called in to review your company’s results.  The Chain of Custody is just as important as the evidence itself, and without it, you run the risk of having your results thrown out, or worse, you could run into spoliation issues.

The first word in the name, Chain, means that wherever the evidence goes, it is linked to all the persons who have come into contact with the evidence.  Custody means that the evidence is in your possession.  If your evidence isn’t documented down to the exact time and date from when the evidence is collected all the way to the laboratory, you could run into some serious issues.  You may have put together a very thorough and well done investigation, but if you missed the signature at the bottom, or some other vital piece of information on the Chain of Custody document, attorneys won’t care about your thorough investigation, they will instead focus on the “holes” in your investigation, e.g. a missing signature, or missing time and date.

ASTM E 1495 – Standard Guide for Physical Evidence Labeling and Related Documentation requires the following five things be documented:  Case or incident number, item number or sample number, personnel information (who collected the sample), date collected, and a brief description of the sample.  This is mainly used for labeling the evidence itself, but the same “rule of thumb” should be applied when filling out your Chain of Custody.  Always remember to sign, time and date your Chain of Custody.

For your convenience, we have links to PDF versions of each of our Chain of Custody documents on the homepage of our website!  Select the appropriate Chain of Custody form as it pertains to the type of evidence you are submitting, and then save to your computer, or just fill, print and sign from wherever you are.  Additionally, if you have any questions, or are unsure about how to properly complete the form, please feel free to call us at (800) 644-4175, or email us at AFLab@AFLab.com anytime.  We are more than happy to walk you through the process, and guide you through instead of receiving an incorrect or incomplete Chain of Custody.

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General Analysis Chain of Custody Form

Fire Debris COC

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General Analysis COC