The Evidence Section is responsible for receiving, storing, transferring and releasing all evidence submitted by investigative agencies in the state. The section's primary goal is the safeguard of all evidence in the custody of the Lab and maintaining an accurate chain of custody for each item of evidence.
What kind of evidence do you receive?
We receive numerous items from officers or crime scene investigators for analysis. These items can be just about anything, but some of the most common items include various drugs & drug paraphernalia, blood, biological items, clothing, shoes, guns, knives, fingerprint cards, and assorted items to be fingerprinted. More unusual items can include bar stools, airplane propellers, doors, car seats, and vehicles.
What is "Chain of Custody"?
"Chain of custody" (COC) refers to the document or paper trail showing the seizure, custody, control, and transfer of physical evidence. Evidence item COC documentation should include the identity of all evidence handlers, duration of evidence custody, and the manner in which evidence is transferred each time such a transfer occurs.
An identifiable person must always have the physical custody of a piece of evidence. In practice, this means that an officer or crime scene personnel will take charge of a piece of evidence at the crime scene, document its collection, and ultimately hand it over to an evidence clerk for storage in a secure place. These transactions, and every succeeding transaction occurring between the collection of the evidence and its appearance in court, should be completely documented in order to withstand legal challenges to the authenticity of the evidence.
Do you get to keep any unwanted evidence, or do you destroy it when you are done testing it?
We do not keep or destroy any submitted evidence. Our policy is to return ALL submitted evidence to the submitting agency. We ship evidence using a method that will maintain the chain of custody on each evidence item. USPS registered mail is an inexpensive way to ship evidence and maintain the chain of custody.
How can I get my evidence back?
We do not give property back to anyone but the agency that has sent it to the crime laboratory to be tested. If someone involved in a legal case wants to get their property back, they need to contact the local agency that is in charge of the case. The agency can then contact the laboratory to request that the evidence be returned.
How do you decide what tests need to be done?
The evidence section does not decide what tests or analysis needs to be done. We have a form called a Request for Laboratory Services (RLS). On this form the officer or crime scene investigator fills out all the applicable information including what analysis they require for each evidence item. The RLS is filled out before the evidence is brought or sent to the laboratory. If an item on an RLS form does not have any analysis indicated, we are required to call the officer or contact the crime scene investigator to complete the RLS.
How do you decide when an evidence item can be returned to the local agency?
An evidence item can be returned to the local agency when all the requested examinations are complete. Before the evidence is sent back, the RLS is checked to see if all analyses have been done.
What happens when the evidence is damaged in shipping?
When the crime laboratory receives evidence that is damaged or not packaged correctly, the damage or improper packaging is documented to maintain Chain of Custody. We then bring each item up to State of Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory (SCDL) and American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) standards.
How much evidence do you have in your evidence room?
An evidence inventory is conducted yearly, but it is to locate the evidence on hand at the crime laboratory, not to count the number of items in the Evidence Section. It's hard to say exactly how many pieces of evidence are stored in the section at any given time. The evidence room has sixty four 4' x 2' shelves, a small closet, a walk in safe, three refrigerators, two standing freezers and a walk in freezer that are all filled close to capacity. We also have a staging area for returns that is also almost filled to capacity.
How many cases do you receive in a year?
In the past five years we have averaged between 2500 to 2800 new cases a year. This does not count re-submittals or additional evidence submitted on previous cases.
Where does all this evidence come from?
We are the only crime laboratory in the State of Alaska. We receive evidence from every police agency in the state of Alaska including police departments, federal agencies, Alaska State Trooper posts, and various Fish and Wildlife agencies. We also receive evidence from the Medical Examiner’s office. We do not accept evidence from private citizens, and very rarely accept any evidence from agencies outside of Alaska.