Documenting Chain of Custody
Everyday Data Processing
Part of the workload for every organization is data processing and paperwork. It does not matter the type of business you are in; paperwork comes with the territory. While many trained professionals enjoy their work, they often don’t share this opinion of handling the paperwork that comes along with it. Forensic scientists may love working in the lab, but filling out reports may be their least favorite part of the job. It’s only natural that putting pen to paper and handling minute tasks that are time-consuming are at the bottom of everyone’s ‘to-do’ list. However, how the paperwork is handled, by whom, what changes are made, and when are all necessary details. In fields like law enforcement, these details provide evidence that evidence has not been tampered with. Rather than falling back into your office chair in dismay, here are six tips to help ease the burden of handling the tedious paperwork and data processing that may come along with your job.
- Have a sound organizational system. – It is essential to take time to walk through every company file from inception to destruction. Consider ways that the paperwork can be streamlined.
- Go Digital. – An electronic or digital filing system saves paper and money and allows all employees to access the files on demand. It keeps everyone on the same page and prevents the embarrassment of misplaced paper files. Adobe Acrobat has a secure signature feature. Applications like Docu-sign give the ability to collect signatures from multiple parties.
- Outsource when possible. – Outsourcing the work to a third party can result in faster turnaround times. This option leaves your employees to do other, more critical tasks. It does have its drawbacks. There is an increased risk of a data breach with the transfer of data. Weigh your options.
- Don’t let it pile up. – It is very tempting just to push the paperwork to the back burner while your focus remains on other, more significant duties. If you do this, you run the risk of getting backlogged, completely overwhelmed, and risk misplacing something important.
- Hire temporary employees. – For some businesses, specific amounts of paperwork fall seasonally. It may be beneficial and cost-saving to hire temporary employees to handle the extra seasonal charge of processing smoothly and efficiently versus maintaining the full staff with salaries and benefits year-round.
- Keep pushing forward. – There is often little reason to spend extended amounts of time focused solely on paperwork. Stay focused, look for efficient solutions, and cost savings. To stay ahead of your competition, it is vital always to keep pushing forward.
Chain of Custody
Chain of custody matters in many areas of business and legal contexts. For a business that produces food, the chain of custody helps define the food processing trail from farm to finished and packaged goods. This allows the company and other federal agencies to find the source of contaminations and correct them accurately. In legal contexts, the chain of custody is the chronological documentation or paper train that demonstrates the sequence of custody, control, transfer process, analysis or testing, disposition of materials, disbursement of information for all evidence, both physical and electronic.
The concept of keeping track of the chain of custody of an item, result, evidence, product, or paperwork, applies to many different areas in business, sports, courts, law enforcement, and product management. Chain of custody is provided for drug testing of athletes, testing of evidence for legal cases, production of products, product management, storage, and delivery, as well as alterations made to documents, images, and video files.
Chain of Custody also can be defined as a synonym for provenance. This use of the term generally refers to fields of history, art history, or historical documents. To determine authenticity, demonstrating a chronology of the ownership, location, or custody of an object can help determine its authenticity.
Metadata is defined as “data about data.” Several distinct metadata types include descriptive metadata, structural metadata, administrative metadata, reference metadata, and statistical metadata. All forms of metadata are descriptions about the file such as date created, type of file, time created, last update, users who have read or made changes, location created, and more. An image file may include the type of camera and settings used. It may consist of any edits made and who made them, and on what device. In other words, metadata can be a helpful resource when confirming the chain of custody information.
Keep Control of Data
One of the most valuable assets a business maintains is data. This data can include details on financial transactions, customer’s personal information, and partner details. If a company can use data effectively, it can have a positive impact in all areas. Following legislation and maintaining customer trust by providing security for their personal data helps keep the customer/business relationship trusting and respectful. Maintaining control of data has a positive impact on your company’s reputation. You are doing this to protect the data as a company asset and show customers and partners that they are essential to your success. Ultimately safeguarding their privacy, their finances, and their lives, the trust and return business customers will provide you will continue to create a prosperous future for your business.
Provide Clear Documentation
When providing documentation demonstrating the chain of custody, it should be clear and precise. Documentation is defined as “to give written information that is proof or support of something that has been done or observed.” It is the written account of observations collected during a process, a specified period, or to demonstrate that specific actions have been taken.
It is a common phrase, “If you did not document it, it was not done.” An example would be that documentation is required in a health setting. A nurse or physician must document all actions taken. A medical record is evidence of all care provided. Legally, if it is not recorded, it did not happen. If it is recorded incorrectly, it happened incorrectly. If a medical incident is incorrect or absent, it can be grounds for a malpractice lawsuit. There would be no evidence to prove otherwise. This is an example of why documentation must be clear, precise, and accurate – no matter the type of business. Documentation is an accurate representation of you, and your company’s reputation may depend on it.
Clear, accurate documentation can protect your company and its assets in a court of law. If a company regularly documents its actions, this documentation is considered a legal record. A well-documented history can help protect a business regarding actions it has taken in a court of law. To make the most of company documents, if they are to be handwritten, they should be written or printed to be neat and legible. They should be complete thoughts and written ideas. If documentation is poorly written, it can demonstrate that the writer was distracted, careless, or ineffective in their jobs. This can work against the company in a legal determination. It is essential to have specific standards for paperwork and use forms wherever possible.
The most critical process of evidence documentation is the chain of custody. It is a requirement to assure the court of law that the trial’s presented evidence is authentic. It demonstrates that the proof shown is the same evidence collected and seized at the crime scene. The court, judge, and jury need to be assured that at all times, the evidence was in the custody of a designated individual that was cleared to handle it. There can be no point in time in which it was never accounted for.
It can be a lengthy process. As evidence is processed and sent from lab to detective to prosecuting attorney – and so on, a trail of paperwork must accompany the proof leaving a trail demonstrating every step along the way. It will also include details of any couriers used to send the items or packages between individuals or offices. Continuity of possession or custody of evidence demonstrating its movement and location from the point of discovery and recovery, movement from the laboratory for testing, examination, and until the time it is allowed to be admitted into court is known as the chain of custody or chain of evidence. This is a requirement for all involved in law enforcement. It also protects those who are accused of a crime from tampering.
With so much paperwork and documentation involved in the chain of custody of evidence, medical records, or any other business documentation – how can this be streamlined? Whenever a business can streamline its office processes, saving time and money, it experiences growth. The goal of every business is to grow and prosper. What is the best way to simplify and modernize this process?
The solution to facilitating growth and having accuracy in the chain of custody is to use an intelligent automated software system like CaseGuard. CaseGuard has built-in features to generate a chain of custody report that help law enforcement, government, and other businesses to create legal documents demonstrating changes in documentation and notation of custody of evidence or other paperwork.
A great deal of evidence presented in court today is digital. However, digital evidence can be easily altered. It can be changed by the individual or business being prosecuted. It can be accidentally changed or even deleted by law enforcement or others who are responsible for prosecution. When it comes to digital evidence, CaseGuard automatically logs all work performed. It includes the following reports.
- All file names.
- Tasks performed.
- Logs demonstrating when, where, who, and how files were modified.
Chain of custody reports can be created as evidence is collected at the scene, and CaseGuard can trace and track evidence through every stage of processing. CaseGuard will generate reports showing every step the evidence takes until it reaches the trial court. There will be no question about tampering or other data. When it comes to streamlining the process of notation, paperwork, and demonstrating actions within your business, CaseGuard is the solution. If you want to find a way to experience real growth and leadership, save time and money, CaseGuard will solve your documentation process.