Sexual assault cases are among the most complicated to prosecute in the criminal justice system. As a result, the manner in which the crime scene is processed is crucial, including when it comes to the collection of physical evidence associated with the sexual assault. With this in mind, there are a number of factors and issues you need to bear in mind when it comes to crime scene processing and the recovery of physical evidence from a sexual assault crime scene.
Fundamental Elements of Sexual Assault Crime Scene Processing
Anything from the crime scene that might have evidentiary value needs to be collected. This includes anything that may have originated from the perpetrator as well as the victim of the sexual assault.
The systematic processing of the crime scene involves the following elements:
- Latent prints
- Shoeprints, toolmarks, tire tracks
- Biological evidence
- Other physical evidence
Secure the Crime Scene
A crucial task associated with crime scene processing and the recovery of physical evidence associated with a sexual assault is fully securing the crime scene. The failure to secure the crime scene not only leads to the possibility of contamination of evidence but it can drastically lessen the evidentiary value of evidence collected. The infamous California criminal prosecution of OJ Simpson is a prime example of a case in which the securing of the crime scene – scenes – became a real issue in the prosecution of the former football star.
No one but authorized law enforcement personnel and designated investigators are to be permitted into a sexual assault crime scene until the processing process and collection of evidence is completed. This includes the exclusion of people who live in a residence where a sexual assault is alleged to have occurred.
Only when the processing of the crime scene and the collection evidence is completed can the premises, like a residence, be returned to the owner or other individuals who occupy the property. At this juncture, crime scene cleanup can commence.
Photos are primary elements of the evidence collected from the scene of a sexual assault. Photos (and videos) demonstrate the state of the scene following the crime. They also record as evidence the location of other types of evidence at the scene. Photographing or videoing the crime scene occurs before any other physical evidence is removed from the scene.
Sketches and diagrams are also created at a sexual assault crime scene. For example, a diagram can be made of the crime scene itself, an effort which demonstrates the spatial relationship of the area in which the sexual assault occurred.
Latent fingerprints are collected at the scene of a sexual assault. Latent fingerprints are vital evidence when it comes identifying or confirming the identity of the perpetrator or a sexual assault.
Shoeprints, Toolmarks, Tire Tracks
On a related note, other types of impression evidence is also collected at a crime scene. This includes impressions made by:
- And anything elect that might leave a distinguishing imprint
This type of evidence can also prove helpful in identifying or confirming the identity of a perpetrator of a sexual assault.
The collection of biological evidence from the crime scene is a crucial element of processing a sexual assault crime scene. Biological evidence collected from the scene of a sexual assault includes:
- Other bodily fluids or matter
The collection of biological evidence is not limited to the scene of the sexual assault itself. The victim of this type of crime is asked to submit to an examination using what is called a “rape kit” to collect additional evidence of the crime.
Any clothing worn by the victim at the time of the sexual assault are also to be collected as part of processing the overall crime scene. Garments oftentimes are collected at the time the previously mentioned rape kit examination occurs.
Bedding, towels, and similar items that may have come into contact with the perpetrator or the victim during a sexual assault are also collected from the crime scene.
Other Physical Evidence
Finally, during the processing of a sexual assault crime scene, any other evidence that may have come into contact with the perpetrator is to be collected (if possible). For example, if the perpetrator used a kitchen knife to gain control over the victim, that item is collected as evidence.
Chain of Custody
A crucial element of processing the crime scene and collecting evidence from the scene of a sexual assault is establishing and maintaining what legally is known as a chain of custody. The chain of custody is defined as:
The chronological documentation or paper trail, showing the seizure, custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition of physical or electronic evidence.
The failure to maintain a proper chain of custody can result in collected evidence being excluded during the course of the prosecution of an alleged perpetrator of a sexual assault.