Simon, Monahan, & Simon L.L.C.
Comprehensive Legal Services From
Attorneys Who Get Results

4 ways in which police can go wrong with evidence

On Behalf of | Feb 29, 2024 | Criminal Law |

One of the duties of law enforcement officers is to investigate crimes. However, a common error police make is evidence mishandling.

This misstep hinders the accuracy and fairness of investigations.

1. Failing to preserve the scene

After law enforcement arrives at a crime scene, a primary responsibility is to secure and preserve the area. Doing this can prevent contamination or destruction of evidence.

However, in the heat of the moment or due to lack of proper training, officers may overlook steps in preserving the integrity of the scene. Foot traffic, touching surfaces or moving items can all disrupt potential evidence. This makes it difficult or impossible to reconstruct the sequence of events accurately.

2. Neglecting proper documentation

Documentation is necessary in any investigation. It provides a detailed record of observations, interviews and evidence collection. Yet, officers may omit or inadequately document important details. This leaves gaps in the investigative process. For example, failure to record witness statements promptly or accurately can lead to discrepancies in testimonies.

3. Inadequate evidence collection techniques

Collecting and handling evidence requires precision. It also requires following protocols to prevent contamination or tampering. Unfortunately, investigators may overlook certain techniques, such as using clean gloves, sterile containers and careful packaging to preserve biological or trace evidence. Mishandling evidence can compromise its integrity and render it inadmissible in court.

4. Relying solely on circumstantial evidence

Circumstantial evidence can be compelling. However, relying on it without physical evidence or witness testimony is risky. Investigators may succumb to confirmation bias. They might interpret facts to fit a predetermined narrative. It is better to objectively evaluate all available evidence. Tunnel vision can lead to wrongful accusations and miscarriages of justice.

Law enforcement officers are not immune to errors in their investigative practices. Understanding how they may go wrong with evidence can be helpful for defendants.