Packaging and Continuity

Any retrieved items must be packaged quickly and efficiently to prevent accidental loss of material and minimize decomposition of the sample. The use of bags with integral tamper-evident seals is recommended to prove that the sample has not been contaminated with exogenous substances since it was sealed. The exhibit should be labeled with the site of the sample, the date and time (24-h clock) it was obtained, and the name of the examinee. Again, the use of bags with integral labels will prevent accidental detachment of this vital information (see Fig. 1). Each exhibit is also labeled with an exhibit identification code, usually formed by the forensic practitioner's initials and a number reflecting the order in which the samples were obtained. The latter is particularly important when more than one sample has been obtained from the same site (7). Every exhibit should be signed by the person who first handled

Fig. 1. Exhibit bag with integral label and tamper-evident seal.

the sample and by the person who sealed the package (this may be the same person). It is good practice for others who subsequently handle the exhibit to sign the label also, so that, if necessary, they can be called to court to explain their part in collection, transport, and storage (10).

The clothing worn by the complainant during or after the incident may be an invaluable source of information in terms of the nature of the assault (e.g., damage to clothing and body fluid stains) and the identification of the assailant. Even stains on clothing that has been washed have been found to contain sufficient spermatozoa to produce a DNA profile (11). Clothing should be placed in bags made of material, such as paper, that prevents the accumulation of condensation, which could accelerate decomposition of body fluids. Submitted clothing should be sealed and labeled as described previously. When the clothing is overtly wet or possibly contaminated with accelerants, the forensic science laboratory should be asked for advice on packaging and storage. The following additional information should then be recorded on the appropriate label:

• Which items were worn during the offense.

• Which items were removed and not replaced.

• Which items were removed and replaced.

• Which new items were worn after the offense.

The forensic scientist must be provided with salient information regarding the incident and subsequent actions of the complainant in order to determine the type of forensic analysis required. A useful means of transmitting this information is via a pro forma (see Fig. 2).

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