This month the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) Forensic Technology Center of Excellence published a Digital Evidence Policies and Procedures Manual to be used as a guide for law enforcement agencies. The preface to the manual clarifies that policies and procedures should be tailored to fit each lab’s particular circumstances, and further that a manual should be regularly updated to stay current. The NIJ manual was created with the intention of providing a starting point for agencies in the process of drafting their own policies and procedures manuals.
The manual is divided into ten sections, each detailing policies and procedures surrounding to a particular topic related to the collecting and processing of digital evidence: (1) Case Assignment and Prioritization; (2) Equipment Testing, Validation, and Updates; (3) Evidence and Property Handling; (4) Search and Seizure; (5) Storage and Retention of Evidence; (6) Reports; (7) Materials and Supplies; (8) Digital Lab Access; (9) Release of Information to the Media and; (10) Quality Assurance Policy and Process.
The sample policies and procedures may be of interest to attorneys in interpreting lab reports or preparing to examine digital evidence experts. The manual may give attorneys a sense of what information should be present in a report, and, conversely, what information might be missing. Additionally, the manual offers some insight as to what issues may arise in collecting, documenting, storing, and handling evidence both in the lab and during the execution of a search warrant. The document also addresses the steps that labs should take to prevent and correct errors.
The manual is available here in its entirety.