National Institute of Justice
A Guide for General Crime Scene Investigation:
Documenting and Evaluating the Scene
Once the investigator(s) in charge of the crime scene arrive, they should:
Conduct a scene assessment:
- Converse with the first responder(s) about observations and activities.
- Evaluate safety issues that may affect all personnel entering the
scene(s) (e.g., bloodborne pathogens and/or hazards).
- Evaluate search and seizure issues to determine the necessity of obtaining consent to search and/or obtaining a search warrant.
- Evaluate and establish a path of entry/exit to the scene that can be utilized by authorized personnel.
- Evaluate initial scene boundaries.
- Determine the number/size of scene(s) and prioritize which should be investigated first.
- Establish a secure area within close proximity to the scene(s) for the purpose of consultation and equipment staging.
- If multiple scenes exist, establish and maintain communication with personnel at those locations.
- Establish a secure area for temporary evidence storage in accordance with rules of evidence/chain of custody.
- Request additional investigative resources as required (e.g., personnel/specialized units, legal consultation/prosecutors and/or equipment).
- Ensure continued scene integrity (e.g., document entry/exit of authorized personnel and prevent unauthorized access to the scene).
- Ensure that witnesses to the incident are identified and separated. Obtain valid ID.
- Ensure the surrounding area is canvassed and the results of this canvassing are documented.
- Ensure that the scene, injured persons and vehicles are documented and photographed.
Conduct a scene walkthrough and initial documentation. The investigator(s) in charge should conduct a walkthrough to identify threats to scene integrity and protect physical evidence. They should provide careful written and photo documentation.
During the scene walkthrough, the investigator(s) in charge should:
- Avoid contaminating the scene by using the established path of entry.
- Prepare preliminary documentation of the scene.
- Identify and protect fragile and/or perishable evidence (e.g., consider climate conditions, crowds and/or hostile environment).
- Ensure that all evidence that may be compromised is immediately documented, photographed and collected.
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