In criminal or civil litigation, evidence—whether being adduced to establish, objectively establishing, or being relational to fact—is key for demonstrating veracity. This makes the spoliation of evidence, or the loss or destruction of evidence or potential evidence in legal proceedings by the one who held responsibility for its preservation, an ominous issue.
Therefore, it is crucial that evidence be retained in its useful form, and that it is not misplaced or otherwise rendered useless. However, in forensics, it is sometimes unavoidable to conduct destructive testing procedures while examining evidence.
When the examination or testing of evidence is necessary, and this examination is likely to change the state of the evidence, ASTM E860-07(2013)e2 – Standard Practice for Examining And Preparing Items That Are Or May Become Involved In Criminal or Civil Litigation is applicable. This standard practice establishes guidelines for the examination and testing of actual items or systems, which are referred to as evidence, that are reasonably expected to be the subject of criminal or civil litigation.
The ASTM E860-07(2013)e2 document establishes procedures for documenting the nature, state, or condition of items of evidence, as well as actions for conducting destructive testing to not adversely limit additional examination or testing.
ASTM E860-07(2013)e2 recommends generally acceptable professional practice, but it cannot replace education, training, or experience and is to be used in conjunction with professional judgement. Additionally, not every aspect of the standard practice will be applicable under every circumstance.
ASTM E860-07(2013)e2 – Standard Practice for Examining And Preparing Items That Are Or May Become Involved In Criminal or Civil Litigation is available on the ANSI Webstore.