Evidence software is software designed for electronic evidence management, allowing law enforcement personnel to log and keep track of evidence via digital means. Many law enforcement agencies use evidence software, and some prefer it to other evidence management solutions, such as creating paper records for each item in evidence. Software manufacturers produce a range of products for law enforcement use, with a variety of features.
Using evidence software, law enforcement personnel can create a digital record for every item of evidence collected. The records can be tied with numbers used to reference specific cases, allowing officers to pull up all evidence records for a given case. Officers can also search by keyword, looking for all evidence of a particular type. Other sorting methods, such as date of collection, can be used as well.
Such programs are usually designed to work with a barcode or radio frequency indentification (RFID) system. The evidence is tagged with individual barcodes or RFID tags to make it easy to find and identify. Using laptop computers, law enforcement can enter evidence into the program in the field, making evidence collection much more efficient. Once entered into storage, the log for each item can be updated to provide information about where in the evidence room it should be located. This allows officers to easily look up evidence, determine its location, and retrieve it.
In addition to acting as a giant catalog, evidence software has another important function. It also has features that create a record of the chain of custody. Knowing who has handled evidence and when is very important to evidence integrity. Chain of custody records will show if evidence was left in an unsecured area, handled by someone who was not authorized, or otherwise compromised. Officers can sign evidence in and out of the program as they remove it from the evidence room for examination, testing, or court appearances. The software will create a permanent log, tracking the history of the evidence from the time of collection to final disposition.
Companies that develop this software usually work with law enforcement personnel and evidence experts. The goal is to design a system that will effectively meet day-to-day law enforcement needs while also meeting the standards of evidence handling. Bad evidence software can be more of a nuisance than a help to law enforcement and could potentially compromise a case in court if it fails to track evidence appropriately.