Policy: Evidence Procedures

PURPOSE

The purpose of this order is to establish the procedures for the collection, processing, and disposition of evidence and other property for the Michigan State University Police Department (Department).

POLICY

The policy of the Department is to use evidence to prove a connection between a person and an act, item or location based on criminal investigation. This policy follows current laws, administrative rules and ordinances to provide directives on property management, evidence collection, processing, packaging, retention and disposal.

DEFINITIONS

Evidence

Property used to prove a connection between a person and an act, item, or location based on criminal investigation.

Non-evidence Property

Property that does not have an apparent nexus to a crime, but still must be managed by officers who discover it. Some definitions of non-evidence property from law include:

Lost

Property that has been involuntarily separated from the owner and the owner does not know where the property is located.

Abandoned

Property which the owner has permanently given up rights to.

Found

Property that does not have any evidentiary value but has value to the person who lost it.

Safekeeping

Keeping custody of property in a safe place until the owner can retrieve the property.

Recovered and possibly reported as stolen

Property found or otherwise located and a direct connection to a crime cannot be shown, but it must be retained until proof of crime or ownership is determined.

PROCEDURES

Property and Evidence Collection

Property that is found or seized by officers that is not evidence, shall follow the same collection and processing actions as evidence. Unless the owner is immediately located and can prove ownership.

Evidence that only proves that an act occurred is not considered vital; and in those cases a photograph is preferable.

Example: In investigating a malicious destruction of a window, the broken glass does not constitute evidence unless the area of impact is important in obtaining latent prints, blood, residue, etc. However, the item causing the damage may be collectable if there is a possibility of connecting the item with a suspect.

Therefore, if an item cannot connect a person with a criminal act or location of such an act, then it is not considered probative and should not be collected.

Evidence Processing

Packaging and Temporary Storage

All evidence shall be packaged in a manner which preserves the condition of the evidence and prevents the introduction of foreign materials.

The designated officer records, photographs (if appropriate), collects, marks, tags, describes, secures, and recommends the disposition of all items seized as evidence.

Evidence collected, confiscated, or seized shall be entered into the current records management system, packaged, and submitted to a designated evidence temporary storage locker by the conclusion of the officer’s work day.

Evidence shall be packaged in a manner consistent with the Submission of Evidence and Property Instructions, the Michigan State Police Lab Submission Guidelines and the Evidence Manual located in the evidence packaging area or on the Department’s technology page. Officers should communicate with the Evidence Technician using the designated Department E-Mail for evidence: evidence@msu.police regarding any special circumstances regarding packaging of an item or specific processing requests.

The officer that collected the evidence shall enter each item of evidence into the records management system.

That person shall write chain of custody information onto the evidence envelopes or the chain of custody stickers for any other type of packaging.

Currency bags shall be used for currency.

Denominations must be denoted on the bag and two officers must initial the flap when the bag is sealed.

The officer that collected the evidence shall place “Bio-Hazard” stickers on any packages containing items that are considered a bio-hazard risk.

The magnetic “Bio-Hazard” placards shall be placed on the outside of a locker door when the contents of the locker are considered a bio-hazard risk to notify the Evidence Technician of the potential hazard.

When an officer submits a firearm for evidence or safekeeping, the officer shall the check the firearm serial number in NCIC and make a notation on the packaging or evidence label the firearm status noted in NCIC.

When an officer submits an electrical current weapon, the officer shall ensure the electrical current weapon is disarmed.

A Michigan State Police (MSP) Laboratory Examination Request Form (FSD-007) shall be completed by the submitting officer with any evidence that will be going to the MSP Crime Lab for analysis. An FSD-007 shall be submitted with all narcotics and other drugs.

Sexual assault kits shall be submitted to the MSP Crime Lab for analysis within 14 days of receipt from a health care facility.

Property to be Destroyed

The submitting officer shall package item(s) to be destroyed that are not deemed evidence into heat-sealed plastic bag or other similar packaging material. Those items are not to be placed in evidence envelopes.

The submitting officer shall write the report number and indicate “To Be Destroyed” on the packaging and enter the items into the records management system.

Any property to be destroyed shall be deposited into Temporary Storage (lockers, evidence cage, refrigerator, outdoor evidence pen, impound lot, or police garage bay).

No evidence or property to be destroyed shall be submitted to the Evidence Technician, without entry into the records management system, assigned a case number, and followed by a written report.

Temporary Storage keys are then placed into the evidence room key lock-box.

Envelopes and small items, including CD’s/DVD’s, may also be deposited through the evidence room key lock-box.

Locations to store evidence that will not fit in the Evidence Room

When evidence is placed in the outdoor evidence pen, police garage bay, impound lot, or any other area besides normal temporary submission locations, the submitting officer shall advise the Evidence Technician using the designated Department E-Mail that an item has been placed in the identified storage location.

The notification shall include the item description, report number, and specific location of the item (outdoor evidence pen, impound lot, etc.).

Evidence Storage and Disposition

Storage

The Evidence Technician and/or Digital Forensics and Cyber Crime Unit (DFCCU) has the right to refuse placing property into evidence that is not in compliance with this policy.

Access to the evidence room is restricted to personnel authorized by the Investigative Division Commander or designee.

For DFCCU evidence trained personnel, evidence is placed in the designated DFCCU evidence room. Access is restricted to Department DFCCU evidence trained personnel and other personnel authorized by the Investigative Division Commander or designee.

Transfers of Property

The transfer of items placed by evidence-trained personnel are entered into the records management system by the Evidence Technician or other DFCCU trained personnel. This will include, but is not limited to:

Transfers made when item(s) are placed into storage

Items taken to and from court

Items taken to and from the crime lab

Items signed out for investigative review

Final disposition of the items.

Entries should also be recorded on the packaging of the item(s), if it is feasible based on the item being packaged.

Evidence Retention

The Department participates on the Ingham County Evidence Retention Committee, which meets on an annual basis. The committee makes recommendations regarding evidence retention and disposal that provides for consistent, countywide practices.

The Department will follow the recommendations, as provided by the Ingham County Evidence Retention Committee.

The Ingham County Evidence Retention Policy provides for specific court processes, court rules, length, and ICPO recommended length of retention.

Unusual or extraordinary circumstances may warrant deviation from the recommended guidelines and must be documented.

Disposal and Release of Evidence

The usual method of disposition for all property will be to return it to the owner (if ownership is established); except when the item is contraband, the return is prohibited by law, or the owner is prohibited by court order or other legal proceeding from possessing the item.

Periodically, the Evidence Technician and DFCCU trained evidence personnel will review the database for disposable items. Disposal includes any final disposition of the property; whether by destruction, auction, forfeiture, recycling, or return to owners.

General Disposal Rule

The Evidence Technician or DFCCU trained evidence personnel are authorized to dispose of found property to the owner.

Evidence disposal could include the following:

Requested destruction of non-drug property by the person who seized the property

Requested destruction of drugs by the person who seized the property with a witness present

The disposition of any found property after statutory time period (MCL 434.24).

The Department’s Court Officer shall notify the Evidence Technician or DFCCU trained evidence personnel when charges were not issued or charges were dismissed using the designated evidence E-Mail.

The Evidence Technician or DFCCU trained evidence personnel shall then request permission using E-Mail to the Investigative Division Commander or designee to have the identified evidence destroyed.

Once the Investigative Division Commander or designee authorizes the disposal of the property, the trained evidence personnel shall properly dispose of that property.

Restricted Evidence Release: When evidence is released that still has potential for future prosecution, a Restricted Evidence Release form shall be completed.

A photograph of the recipient with possession of the restricted evidence or some other mark of identification shall be attached to the report in the records management system.

A copy of the signed Restricted Evidence Release form shall be attached to that report.

The original Restricted Evidence Release form should be filed in the original report jacket by Records Personnel.

The officer releasing the property shall also complete a supplemental report detailing the evidence released.

Evidence cleared for disposal

When evidence or property is cleared for disposal and all legal requirements have been met, the Evidence Technician or DFCCU evidence trained personnel shall contact the owner (if known) using the U.S. Mail First Class delivery to the last known address of the owner.

Those personnel may also telephone and/or use E-Mail to contact the person, but proper documentation of those efforts shall be recorded.

The letter will indicate the owner must contact the Department within six months to claim the property or it will be disposed of by other means.

Weapons: When firearms or weapons are taken into Department custody, an incident report shall be completed, even if the item is taken as evidence, safekeeping or found property.

The Evidence Technician shall be responsible for all weapons taken into custody and shall also check a firearm’s serial number in NCIC prior to destruction or any authorized return to an owner.

The Evidence Technician shall document the firearm status in NCIC on the evidence receipt and chain of custody information.

Evidence/Contraband

MCL 750.239 states “All pistols, weapons or devices carried, possessed or used contrary to this chapter are hereby declared forfeited to the State, and shall be turned over to the Commissioner of the Michigan State Police.” This includes, but is not limited to:

Unlawful sale of a firearm

Illegal weapons (including electrical current weapons)

Illegal ammunition

Illegal or illegally used self-defense spray

Firearms handled by a felon

Carrying a firearm with unlawful intent

“Switchblades”

Carrying a concealed weapon

Commission of a felony while in possession of a firearm

Possession of a firearm in a vehicle

Unlawful discharge

Prohibited premises

Weapon free school zones

Booby traps

Possession while under the influence.

Persons who have been convicted of a felony crime or a misdemeanor assault involving domestic violence, or who have been adjudicated as mentally incompetent by court order may have a federal prohibition from possessing a firearm.

Furnishing a firearm to such a person may also be a federal crime.

If such a prohibition is determined, no firearm shall be returned to such person.

Safekeeping: In the course of their duties, an officer may determine that a weapon, while not evidence or contraband, is likely to create a hazard to life or property if not taken into Department custody. In that case, the officer shall take the weapon for safekeeping.

Whenever a weapon is taken for safekeeping, the officer will notify the Evidence Technician using the designated evidence E-Mail.

The owner shall be advised to contact the Evidence Technician to arrange for the return of the weapon.

The incident report shall indicate the reason the weapon was taken and any information necessary to determine if and when the weapon can be returned safely.

No weapon taken for safekeeping may be released without the authorization of the Chief or designee.

If the weapon is a firearm, then disposition of firearms in this policy shall apply as well.

Disposition of Firearms

Authority for Disposition

Pursuant to Public Act 496 of 1996 (MCL 750.239a (1) & (2)), the reporting officer shall check the firearm in LEIN/NCIC and Department records to determine the owner and to check if the weapon was reported stolen. These checks shall also be completed again prior to the release of the firearm.

Stolen Firearms

If the firearm is needed as evidence for a Department case, it will be held as evidence.

Once the evidence is no longer needed, it shall be returned to the owner as outlined in this policy; or turned over to the police department that entered it as stolen.

If the firearm is not needed as evidence, it shall be returned to the owner as outlined in this policy; or turned over to the police department that entered it as stolen.

Other Firearms

Once a firearm is no longer needed as evidence it shall be returned to the owner as outlined in this policy.

If the serial number has been eradicated from the firearm, the Evidence Technician shall request that the firearm be submitted to MSP or a forensic laboratory for serial number restoration to determine legal ownership.

Authorization to Return/Transfer Firearm

No firearm may be returned to an owner or transferred to another department without the authorization of the Chief or designee.

The Evidence Technician will verify the following information (from (MCL 750.239):

The firearm is not stolen

The firearm is registered to the owner, if required

The owner is legally allowed to possess the firearm

The firearm is not subject to forfeiture

Owner Notification/Disposal: Pursuant to MCL 750.239a, Sections (2) through (6) notification of the owner of a firearm authorized for release in accordance with this policy shall be made as follows:

Notification shall be given at the conclusion of the criminal case, but not later than 90 days before the firearm is disposed of under MCLA 750.239 and this directive.

Notification shall be given using certified U.S. Mail sent to the owner’s last known address, or by documented personal contact with the owner.

The firearm shall be returned to its owner if the owner claims the firearm within the notification period, and the Department determines that the owner was not involved in the violation for which the firearm was seized.

Except as otherwise provided in MCL 750.239a, Section 2, a firearm shall be returned within 30 days after the firearm is claimed by the owner, unless the owner is prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law.

An individual claiming ownership of a firearm may petition the Ingham County Circuit Court for return of a firearm, if return of the firearm is denied by the Department or if the firearm is not returned within 30 days as required under MCL 750.239a Section 3.

The Department shall turn confiscated weapons over to MSP not more than six months after final conclusion of the criminal case and expiration of the appeal period.

The Department shall first make a reasonable effort to contact the owner of the firearm to determine whether a legal demand for the firearm is forthcoming.

Evidence Tasks System

The designated evidence E-Mail shall be utilized by officers for the purposes of advising the Evidence Technician or DFCCU evidence trained personnel of any special considerations or information regarding item(s) submitted into evidence including: packaging, crime lab submission, court, processing and/or release of evidence.

Personnel other than the Evidence Technician or DFCCU evidence trained personnel who release evidence shall notify the Evidence Technician or DFCCU evidence trained personnel using the designated evidence E-Mail.

Notification shall include the description of the item(s), report number, and date and time item(s) were released.

The Evidence Technician or DFCCU evidence trained personnel shall then record the transfer in the records management system.

The designated evidence E-Mail shall be utilized by officers requesting evidence for future court appearances.

The request shall be made at least 72 hours in advance of the court appearance date/time.

Police Cadets will handle telephone or walk-in inquiries about evidence by utilizing the designated evidence E-Mail when the Evidence Technician or DFCCU evidence trained personnel are not available. Normal Department business hours apply to availability.

Audits and Inventory

The Evidence Technician or DFCCU evidence trained personnel; and the Investigative Division Commander or designee shall conduct annually audits of at least 25 random items held by the Department in evidence facilities.

A bi-annual inventory of all high-risk items (currency, drugs, and firearms) shall be assigned by the Investigative Division Commander or designee and conducted by personnel who are not associated directly with the property management function.

The final report will be submitted to the Chief or designee.

A full inventory of all custodial property shall be conducted with any reassignment or transfer of the Evidence Technician or reassignment/transfer of any DFCCU evidence trained personnel.

Following the reassignment, an inventory shall be conducted by the newly assigned Evidence Technician, any newly assigned DFCCU evidence trained personnel and another person assigned by the Investigative Division Commander or designee.