EMI Standards and Best Practices

Chapter 7 – Non Evidentiary Property

Purpose: Non-evidentiary property, typically property that is found, abandoned or submitted for safekeeping, presents a slightly different set of rules and requirements for evidence operations. Often overlooked, storage of non-evidentiary property involves constitutional implications for due process and property rights which must be accounted for to ensure the rights of the property owner.  Although, by definition, non-evidentiary property is not evidence, management of non-evidentiary property requires the same level of security, chain of custody and management as any other item stored as evidence. Implementation and adoption of the Non-Evidentiary Property standards and practices recommended by the Evidence Management Institute promotes a stable organizational baseline for sustainable evidence management.

 

Scope: Non-Evidentiary Property Standards and Best Practices

Safekeeping Property Standards and Best Practices

Found Property Standards and Best Practices

Abandoned Property Standards and Best Practices

 

Definitions: Non-evidentiary Property. Any item stored by an evidence management unit which is not designated as evidence, or potential evidence, in a criminal case or civil proceeding.

Found Property. Any item submitted for storage to an evidence management unit which is not designated as evidence, or potential evidence, in a criminal case or civil proceeding that is believed to belong to a known or unknown owner based on the items perceived value, markings or inscriptions indicating individual ownership, or circumstances which indicate unintentional loss by the rightful owner.  

Safekeeping Property. Any item submitted for storage to an evidence management unit which is not designated as evidence, or potential evidence, in a criminal case or civil proceeding that belongs to a known owner. Generally, safekeeping items are submitted on behalf of the known owner to facilitate return to the owner at a future time.

Abandoned Property.  Any item submitted for storage to an evidence management unit, or in storage with an evidence management unit, which is not designated as evidence, or potential evidence, in a criminal case or civil proceeding that: 1) has been clearly abandoned prior to submission and storage by a known or unknown owner, 2) after storage and appropriate notification by the evidence management unit abandoned by the owner after the return or notification response deadline has expired, or 3) an aggregate of circumstances and facts suggest abandonment by the owner.

Chapter VII. Non-Evidentiary Property

  1. Non-Evidentiary Property Standards
    1. Non-evidentiary Property Storage
      1. Non-evidentiary property should be stored separately from evidence to prevent the unintentional release or cross contamination of evidence, and to facilitate the return of the item to the rightful owner without undue delay.
    2. Non-evidentiary Property Statutory Compliance
      1. Many states have enacted legislation governing storage and return of non-evidentiary property. The evidence management unit should comply with state or local statutes  governing:
        1. Minimum storage duration requirements
        2. Notification to owner of storage custody
        3. Notification to owner for return or release
        4. Publication of intention to dispose of the item
  1. Non-Evidentiary Property Best Practices
    1. Packaging and Submission of Non-Evidentiary Property
      1. Packaging and submission protocols for non-evidentiary property should follow agency protocols for evidence packaging and submission.
    2. Ownership Documentation of Non-Evidentiary Property
      1. The submitting officer should be responsible for researching and providing ownership information related to the submitted item prior to submission.
    3. Field Release of Non-Evidentiary Property
      1. Procedures for field release of non-evidentiary property prior to submission to the evidence management unit should be documented by the agency if field releases are permitted.
      2. All field releases of non-evidentiary property should be documented and include proof of receipt by the owner or person to whom the property was released.
    4. Return Priority of Non-Evidentiary Property
      1. To prevent excessive storage burdens on the evidence management unit and to restore property rights to lawful owners, non-evidentiary property stored by the evidence management unit should be returned as soon as practicable and permissible by agency policy and state or local law.
  2. Safekeeping Property Standards
    1. Safekeeping Item Classification
      1. Items submitted to the evidence management unit for safekeeping, as non-evidentiary property, should meet established criteria to qualify as safekeeping property. Safekeeping property is generally characterized by:
        1. A known and identified owner, with current contact information
        2. Documented notification to the owner that the item is being stored for safekeeping
  1. Safekeeping Property Best Practices
    1. Notification Responsibility
      1. The submitting officer should provide documented notification to the owner at the time when items are taken into custody and submitted for safekeeping.
      2. If it is not practicable or possible to provide documented notification to the owner at the time when the item is taken into custody, the submitting officer should provide sufficient documentation to the evidence management unit for owner notification.
      3. Agency policy should prescribe a time period for holding items as safekeeping; the time period should be specifically noted with an expiration date in owner notification documentation.
  2. Found Property Standards
    1. Found Property Classification
      1. Items submitted to the evidence management unit as found, non-evidentiary property should meet established criteria to qualify as found property. Found property is generally characterized by:
        1. That it is believed to belong to a known or unknown owner based on the item’s perceived value, markings or inscriptions indicating individual ownership, or circumstances which indicate unintentional loss by the rightful owner.
  1. Found Property Best Practices
    1. Return of Non-Evidentiary Property to Finder
      1. Unless specifically authorized by statute or agency policy, found property items should only be returned to the rightful owner. The fact of finding a property item does not generally confer future ownership rights to the item unless specifically prescribed by statute.
  2. Abandoned Property Standards
    1. Abandoned Property Classification
      1. Items submitted to the evidence management unit as abandoned, non-evidentiary, property should meet established criteria to qualify as abandoned property. Abandoned property is generally characterized by:
        1. Facts or circumstances that indicate the property was clearly abandoned by a known or unknown owner prior to submission, or
        2. Stored property, after storage and appropriate notification by the evidence management unit, abandoned by the owner after the return or notification response deadline has expired, or
        3. An aggregate of circumstances and facts suggest abandonment by the owner.
  1. Abandoned Property Best Practices
    1. Internal Evidence Management Unit Abandoned Property
      1. Unidentified items, or items that cannot be linked to an existing secure chain of custody, may lose integrity and utility as evidence. If through the course of inspection, audit or inventory items are located that cannot be identified as evidence, linked to a specific case or person, agencies should consider implementing a procedure to research, document and reclassify the item as abandoned after exhausting all other measures to identify the item.
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