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The finding, collecting and preservation of physical evidence are the most important phases in a criminal investigation.
Physical evidence is of value only if it helps prove a case or clear a suspect. The most valuable evidence may be worthless if inefficiently handled.
In general, the term «chain of evidence» may be defined as the documentation of every article of evidence, from the point of initial discovery at a crime scene, to its collection and transport to a laboratory, its temporary custody and its final disposition. Within this context, it is natural that:
— the admissibility of the information derived from any article of evidence be 'directly proportional to and fully dependent on the manner and precautions taken to ensure that the evidence presented to a court has been protected;
— there be no viable alternative to a strong chain of evidence.
It is not always possible to know whether or not an object has evidential value until it is analyzed. For example, one is generally unable to see all the details in a shoe imprint until a cast has been made and that cast compared with the shoe.
In collecting any object of possible evidential value an officer should keep in mind the importance of the following:
1. The possibilities being found on it.
2. The chances of certain pieces of microscopic debris, such as hair, blood, paint, fibres, etc., adhering to it.
3. How that article should be removed, marked, packaged and transported.
Physical evidence is something that is concrete, something that can generally be measured, photographed, analyzed, and presented as a physical object in court. Circumstantial evidence is a specific circumstance. For example, a suspect might be accused of burglary, and the shoes he is wearing are proved to have made certain impressions found at the scene of a crime. The shoes and the imprint are physical evidence, while the fact that the suspect was wearing the shoes when arrested is circumstantial evidence. Someone else could have worn the shoes at the time the burglary was committed, therefore that type of 'evidence is circumstantial.
If there are witnesses, the investigator needs corroborative evidence; if there are no witnesses, the entire case must often be proved through physical evidence alone.
A lone piece of evidence, because of its great intrinsic value and the impossibility of being duplicated, may be sufficiently important to warrant a conviction — for example, a fingerprint. At other times it may be a combination of a number of articles of physical evidence, none of which are conclusive, that proves the case.
The intrinsic value of physical evidence often depends on its location. A hat on one's head has little significance but if it is found beside a murder victim it might become of great importance.
There is no such thing as a perfect crime, a crime that leaves no traces — there is only the inability to find the evidence.
When the investigating officer arrives at a crime scene it is necessary that he should first protect the scene and prevent anybody from touching any object.
The preliminary survey is to acquaint the investigating officer with the entire scene and its important details. After he has completed his preliminary survey the photographer may go to work. It is important that the investigator should accompany the photographer, pointing out various objects of possible evidential value. He should note possible location of latent prints (invisible prints), and guard against contamination of such objects and surfaces.
After the general scene has been completely photographed, the officer with casting equipment casts all possible imprints, if such are present, and then the fingerprint man should work on various objects. He should also note movable objects where fingerprints may be found, and should carefully remove them to a safe place for dusting and developing later.
As the fingerprint man completes his work, the investigator may go to work thoroughly searching the scene of possible evidential value.
As evidence is found, it should be marked, carefully packaged, each article separately, and placed in some locality where it will not be destroyed or contaminated, until it is transported to a laboratory.
The interrogation of criminal suspects and interviewing witnesses is the greatest source of direct information in the general administration of criminal justice. The line of distinction between an interrogation and an interview is very thin. Both involve questioning and more important, listening. Interviewing is the process of general questioning of victims, witnesses and others who may have knowledge about the criminal activity and who are "non-suspects" at the time of the encounter. The interrogation concerns the legal aspect of questioning and is the systematic questioning of a criminal suspect or a person who is reluctant to disclose information in his possession which is relevant to the investigation. In some respect interrogation refers to special police facilities and procedures of sleuthing. During the interview a "non-suspect" may become a suspect, the questioning then becomes interrogation.
Thus interrogation is a part of investigation but it does not substitute the investigation. The object of interrogation is to discover the truth and to prepare a criminal case for the prosecution in court, that is to develop evidence of guilt, to prove this guilt and to punish a person responsible for a crime and to recover the stolen property.
The success of any interrogation depends primarily on the efforts and specialized abilities of the investigator, a good decision-making judgement being quite indispensable for a technique of a successful interrogator. Every good investigator should be patient, tactful, composed, persistent and sympathetic, but he should be firm if it is necessary. Those salient features of the police officer can do nothing but help him in obtaining good results in the investigation.
There is not one method of interrogation. Every good investigator learns to acquire a technique of interrogation which best suits his temperament and his talents. Although a special list of "do's" and "don'ts" is quite available in the practice of interrogation, it often happens that some good investigators do not recognize certain general rules and use their own methods.
The subject of interrogation may be any person who has relevant information concerning the case. It may be a victim, a complainant, an accused, a witness and a criminal. They may be cooperative and uncooperative, willing or unwilling. In any case the officer should choose and follow the right line of interrogation.
A successful investigator never forgets that his altitude to the subject of interrogation may be the key to the solution of a case. When a witness does not want to take part in criminal investigation he falsely denies the facts he knows and the officer fails to get the information. In this case the interrogator should neither threaten nor intimidate him. He tries to persuade the witness that he is shirking his duty as a citizen if he does not reveal the truth and without its discovering it will be impossible to solve the crime.
As a rule initial questioning by a police officer obtains a description of a suspect. In addition to inquiry about sex, race, age, height, clothing, glasses, hair length and facial appearance, the officer asks about the distinctive marks of the suspect, i.e. the most unusual features of his appearance. These questions force a subject to think about the overall appearance of the suspect and often result in establishing important information, e.g. the suspect has an ear missing, an artificial leg, gold teeth, or a scar running from one eye to the corner of his mouth. Such details may appear the most vital in the total process of identification, location and apprehension of the criminal.
"SPECIAL MEANS, METHODS AND FORMS OF CRIME SOLUTION"
We are future economic crime lawyers and we'll work in the economic crime fighting department. We know that the main task of the economic crime fighting department is to fight against criminality, to prevent and solve crimes. That's why we should master special means, methods and forms of fighting, preventing and solving crime. In order to know about it, let's speak about the work of an operative group.
As soon as an operative group gets the information of the crime committed it goes out to the crime scene. The process of crime scene search usually includes a preliminary observation, a general observation, a detailed search and a final stage.
An operative group consists of an investigator, a field-criminalist, a divisional inspector, an inspector of the Criminal Detection Department, a medical expert, a dog-guide (a bobby-handler). Each of them has own duties at the crime scene. They should work in close cooperation and use different special means, methods and forms of crime solution.
The search commander directs primary crime scene investigation and detection. Basing on all data gathered the search commander analyses the situation and tries to reconstruct the happening as to: Where, What, When, How, Why and Who.
The investigator defines the crime, examines the crime scene, analyses the situation, makes a plan of search, interrogates suspects, collects and protects physical evidence, makes diagrams, sketches, takes pictures of the scene and its objects, establishes corpus delicti, makes a record of the crime scene observation and makes conclusions.
The field-criminalist helps the investigator to solve the crime. He develops and takes fingerprints and footprints, takes other traces of the crime act: a sample of hair and blood, packs the traces of the crime for a crime laboratory, makes plaster casts.
The inspector of the Criminal Detection Department (the operative) finds and interviews eyewitnesses and a victim, locates and apprehends the criminal, arrests suspect or suspects, identifies the criminal using methods of identification: portrait parle, photography, identikit, modus operandi, a line-up, voiceprinting, handwriting. The inspector also takes measures for search, discovery and seizure of stolen property and instruments of the crime.
The divisional inspector ensures crime scene protection, helps the inspector to find witnesses and eyewitnesses, to apprehend a suspect and suspects.
The medical expert gives the first aid to a victim or conducts an external examination of the corpse.
The bobby-handler helps to define, to locate and apprehend a criminal.
Quick and accurate solution of the crime depends on the education, practical skill and detective ability of the members of an operative group.
A CRIME SCENE AND DUTIES OF A POLICE OFFICE AT A CRIME SCENE
When a crime is reported to the police, the initial police actions on arrival usually are:
- to arrest the perpetrators of the crime, if possible;
- to give first aid if required, protect the crime scene, question witnesses at the scene;
- to make a preliminary search for recording and preserving of, and delivery of pertinent physical evidence to a laboratory.
The investigating process very often depends on the discovery of physical evidence found at the scene. The correct handling of any criminal evidence involves the vital need for proper collection and identification of all articles of interest.
Proper handling means to prevent careless destruction of any evidence, to establish and maintain the chain of evidence and to prevent, wherever possible, the addition of any extraneous data to evidence already collected.
A competent search of a crime scene requires that an officer should have specialized training, an understanding of basic procedures, good knowledge of the "why" of certain actions, and close attention to detail in carrying them out.
To satisfy the legal requirements concerning physical evidence the investigator must be able to:
- identify each-article of evidence, even months after he collected it;
- describe the exact location of the item at the time it was collected;
- prove that from the moment of its collection until it was presented in court, the evidence was continuously in proper custody;
- describe changes that have occurred in the evidence between the time of its collection and its presentation in court.
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