What is Chain of Custody?
Chain of custody refers to the process of collecting, storing, protecting, and documenting samples or evidence. Creating and maintaining a chain of custody requires a person to keep a detailed log of everything that happens, for example, to the evidence before a legal trial. Chain of custody is applied in different fields such as the investigation of crimes and testing of drugs. The chain begins at the collection of a specimen by specialists conducting a crime scene investigation or scientists and consultants collecting samples. When evidence and samples are obtained, documentation begins. The place where the evidence was found or specimen was taken is recorded. This is done by taking notes and photographs. The samples are labelled with a number. The specimen is then measured, and further documentation is made. It is important that when the specimen is collected it is not contaminated. For example, personal protective equipment is used to prevent contamination. The process of handling with care and documenting the whole process continues until the specimen gets to the final stage where the sample is used (Botnick et al., 2005).
A chain of custody acts as an assurance that the specimen has not been altered or tampered with either in the process of copying or analysis. For a long time, the documentation process was done by taking notes and writing on a piece. However, with the advancement in technology, computers are taking over the whole process of a chain of custody (Botnick et al., 2005).
A drug test, environmental specimen and evidence meant to convict a person in court require careful handling, and this is what chain of custody does. In general, a chain of custody plays a vital role in ensuring that a piece of evidence used to convict a person is valid or a drug/environmental specimen tested has not been tampered with in any way. With the advancement of technology, electronic chain of custody is currently being used. Instead of documenting the information on papers, the data is entered or imported into a computer. Electronic chain of custody has various advantages (Botnick et al., 2005).
Electronic chain of custody
When an electronic chain of custody is compared to the standard chain of custody which is completed by hand, electronic documents have various advantages such as reduced paperwork to manage, accurate data, and smooth delivery of copies to relevant authorities. Other benefits of an electronic chain of custody are faster specimen collections, reduced of flaws, fewer data entry issues, and improved overall efficiency.
When using ESdat Environmental Data Management System, all data is tracked and backed up electronically; there is no scope for transcription errors or loss of paper-based records. See here for more information on electronic chain of custody.
ESdat, Environmental Data Management Software, is developed by Earth Science Information Systems (EScIS), and used for a variety of applications including contaminated/industrial sites, groundwater investigations, general site environmental management and landfill. https://esdat.net/
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