Evidence is a crucial part of the criminal justice system, and courts go to great lengths to prevent evidence tampering. One of the ways this is prevented is by having an evidence log. This sheet is a way for police to input data about the evidence collected, to keep track of who has checked it out and when and to assure that it is safely held until it is needed in court. This log is a piece of paperwork that is issued by the evidence department of a police department.
The evidence log can look different from one police department to the next, but each log generally has a series of similar elements that serve to protect the reliability of the evidence. No matter whether a detective is checking in a hair sample, blood, a weapon or even a car, he or she fills out the evidence log before dropping off the item. Each log asks for a list of the evidence being submitted, often requiring physical descriptions, the location found and other information. More sophisticated computerized logs actually allow for pictures of the criminal evidence to be part of the log. Each log also has a check-in and check-out area where authorized personnel, such as attorneys and police officers, can borrow the evidence for examination.
In addition, the evidence log usually includes details about the case to which the evidence is tied. Generally, a case number is assigned any time a crime is committed, and this number stays with the evidence. The type of crime usually also is listed in the evidence log and can range from theft to child custody cases to murder. These elements act as a quick reference point for anyone reviewing the evidence and are especially useful when cases have been dormant for an extended period of time.
The purpose of the evidence log is twofold. First, it is a cataloging system necessary for keeping evidence easily accessible. Depending on the size of the police department, there can be hundreds or thousands of pieces of individual evidence, and retrieving them would be impossible without a log to assign it a number and a space in the evidence room. Secondly, this is a safety precaution that provides the court system with the confidence that evidence has not been tampered with or lost. The logging system puts responsibility for keeping the evidence intact squarely on the shoulders of those who check it out, making them accountable.