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In many court trials, the evidence collected is essential for both the defense and the prosecution. Evidence storage is an important part of the judicial system, because it keeps important pieces of physical evidence free from tampering. There are three main types of storage: autopsy storage, temporary storage and long-term storage. Each of the three are done to help the trial process, and its authenticity is guaranteed by something called a custody chain.
An autopsy unveils several types of evidence, such as bodily fluids, hair, fingernails and non-human items such as bullets or medications found within a body. These are placed individually in airtight containers and labeled with the person, date, location and other important data in order for an evidence lab to analyze it. Autopsy evidence storage of sensitive pieces of human remains are stored in a specially designed refrigerator system to keep things from spoiling, because evidence frequently cannot be fully investigated or brought into court for days, weeks or months after initial collecting.
Temporary evidence storage is a common type of evidence management, because so many types of sensitive materials can be used as evidence. These items are perishable and hazardous materials that cannot be kept for long periods of time. Autopsy evidence storage overlaps with temporary evidence storage, because deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and bodily fluids are refrigerated or frozen for a period before the trial and usually disposed of after the trial. Hazardous chemicals also are part of this evidence care system and are kept in airtight containers and stored away from ventilation systems in temperature-controlled environments.
Everything that is not in danger of going bad or causing immediate harm is kept in long-term evidence storage. Items ranging from seized narcotics to weapons, clothing, computers, paperwork and more are all kept as evidence for trials. Weapons usually are kept in locked containers, such as an evidence locker, so they cannot be accessed. Narcotics similarly are locked up and usually require special permission to be removed from storage. Paperwork is stored in humidity-controlled climates to ensure that the evidence does not suffer damage.
No matter what form of evidence storage the item is placed in, many judicial systems require a custody chain to ensure that evidence has not been tampered with. This means that there is a paperwork trail showing that the evidence has safely been in storage for the duration of a crime and trial. An example would be removing hair samples during an autopsy, because the coroner would create a document stating the hair's removal, a police officer would document its transportation to storage, and the officer in charge of storage would document its reception. If it is removed and transported for the trial, this also is documented.