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First responders are the men and women who strive to be the lasting difference between life and death. They are the first people on the sight of an emergency; they can be found wherever need may exist 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, nationwide. They come in different forms and with different titles, but all are committed to one essential goal -- saving lives.
Processing a crime scene is a long, tedious process that involves purposeful documentation of the conditions at the scene and the collection of any physical evidence that could possibly illuminate what happened and point to who did it. There is no typical crime scene, there is no typical body of evidence and there is no typical investigative approach. The physical evidence itself is only part of the equation. The ultimate goal is the conviction of the perpetrator of the crime.
A crime scene investigation is an examination of the scene of a crime for any clues or evidence that may lead police to a suspect. Crime scene investigation is a slow and laborious process, but the methodology that requires such challenging care also tends to reveal important clues to the method, motive and suspect of the crime. Crime scene investigators combine law enforcement tactics with scientific know-how in their work, and the way investigators do their jobs plays a big part in whether or not the police capture a suspect (Crawford, Kimberly A, 1999).
The initial response of a crime scene investigation starts when the first police officer arrives at the crime scene. Their top priority is public safety, and they must first ensure that injured people are attended to and that the suspect is no longer on the premises. Once the police officer has determined that there is no immediate danger to themselves or the public, they must preserve as much of the crime scene as possible for further investigation. The crime scene should be cordoned off and curious onlookers kept away. Anyone found at the scene needs to be detained and their movements strictly controlled. The police officer should touch as little as possible in the crime scene, and be prepared to brief the crime investigative team members when they arrive.
Once the crime scene is secure, officers must document as many details as possible. The officers take photographs of the area from all angles; mid-range photos provide a sense of scale and space, while close-up photos of key evidence allow for thorough study of the details. Anything and everything that may be pertinent to the crime is photographed, from blood stains on the walls to cigarette ashes in the corner. Crime scene investigators also make sketches of the crime scene, measuring pertinent distances and noting relevant details, such as the position of the victim's body, if there is one.
With the crime scene documented, the next step is gathering evidence: anything that may have bearing on the crime. That includes blood samples, soil samples, bullet casings, fingerprints and carpet fibers. If something looks suspicious, it's gathered. If it doesn't look suspicious, it's gathered just in case. Investigators take careful steps to preserve the evidence, handling items with tweezers and placing them in plastic bags if necessary. Fingerprints are preserved for future examination, and molds of footprints or tire marks are made with Dental Stone. All the evidence is eventually shipped to a police lab for more detailed analysis. In cases where a victim's body is involved, the medical examiner performs a preliminary analysis, and then takes the body to the morgue for an autopsy.
Crime scene investigators debrief witnesses and suspects found at the crime scene to determine who they are, why they were there and what their relationship to each other is. Investigators also speak to the first police officer who arrived at the scene, and compare their version of events with the versions of the witnesses. If the investigators are lucky, a likely suspect will emerge, helping them to conclude their investigation quickly. If not, debriefing witnesses can still provide details on what happened and establish leads for the investigation to pursue.
Once the crime scene investigation has been concluded and the evidence gathered, the investigators perform a final survey of the crime scene to make sure they haven't missed anything. The scene may be sealed off to preserve any evidence that the investigators might have missed and to keep potential interlopers from contaminating the evidence. The investigators then file a report documenting the actions they took and the evidence they collected.
The crime lab processes all of the evidence the crime scene investigators collected at the crime scene. When the lab results are in, they go to the lead detective on the case.
When law enforcement gets to the scene they not only have to follow these procedures, but they need to follow the rules and regulations of laws that protect citizen's rights as well. The United States Constitutions Fourth Amendment is one of the biggest protections of these rights (Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 2010).
The right of the people to secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no
Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation,
and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things
to be seized.
The first part of the Fourth Amendment provides protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, although historically there have been many ways in which unreasonable searches were remedied. Modern jurisprudence has afforded the police officers an incentive to respect the amendment (Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 2010).
The second part of the Amendment provides for the proper issue of warrants. When warrants are issued, there must be probable cause (Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 2010).
Because of the nature of many crimes, particularly violent crimes, law enforcement officers often do not have sufficient time to obtain search warrants before making initial entries into crime scenes. Consequently, officers are forced to rely on exceptions to the warrant requirement to justify these searches. The most often relied upon justifications are the consent and emergency exceptions.
The consent exception is often a practical option for officers responding to a crime scene. In order for the crime scene search to be constitutional, consent must be given voluntarily by a person reasonably believed by law enforcement officers to have lawful access and control over the premises (Crime Scene Searches: the Need for Fourth Amendment Compliance, 2011).
Virtually every crime will constitute an emergency that justifies law enforcement's warrantless entry to the scene. Courts have recognized three different types of emergencies: threats to life or safety, destruction or removal of evidence, and escape. It is difficult to imagine a crime scene that would not automatically present officers with the basic belief that at least one of these exigent circumstancesAn exigent circumstance, in the American law of criminal procedure, allows law enforcement to enter a structure without a warrant, or if they have a "knock and announce" warrant, without knocking and waiting for refusal under certain circumstances.
..... Click the link for more information. exists to justify a warrantless entry to assess the situation. Problems arise when officers exceed the scope of the particular emergency that justified the initial entry.
During the search of a crime scene law enforcement must not allow the search to exceed the scope of the emergency. What officers may do, where they may look, and how long they may stay on the premises is dictated by the particular exigent circumstances that permit the warrantless entry. Officers are authorized to do whatever is reasonably necessary to resolve the emergency. Once the emergency is resolved, the officers' justification for being there is no longer warranted, and they must have a warrant or one of the other exceptions to the warrant requirement to either remain on the premises or continue to search (Crime Scene Searches: the Need for Fourth Amendment Compliance, 2011).
Despite the fact that the Supreme Court has declined to set a precedent for a to make or get by cutting, or as if by cutting; to cut out.
See also: Carve special exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement for crime scenes, many law enforcement agencies do not, as a matter of policy, train officers to obtain warrants or consent prior to conducting in-depth searches of these areas. Because officers arriving on the scene of a crime have no way of knowing whether the ultimate defendant is going to be someone with enough authority to object to the search of the scene, the wording of the Fourth Amendment must be carefully scru·pu·lous
1. Conscientious and exact; painstaking. See Synonyms at meticulous.
2. Having scruples; principled. honored to ensure the admissibility of evidence (Crime Scene Searches: the Need for Fourth Amendment Compliance, 2011).
One way courts enforce the Fourth Amendment is with the exclusionary rule. The rule provides that evidence obtained through a violation of the Fourth Amendment is generally not admissible by the prosecution during the defendant's criminal trial.
The Court adopted the exclusionary rule in Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383 (1914), prior to which all evidence, no matter how seized, could be admitted in court. Additionally, in Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385 (1920), the Court ruled that tips resulting from illegally obtained evidence are also inadmissible in trials as fruit of the poisonous tree (Findlaw, 2011).
The exclusionary rule serves primarily to deter police officers from willfully violating a suspect's Fourth Amendment rights. The rationale behind the exclusionary rule is that if the police know evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment cannot be used to convict someone of a crime, they will not violate it.
The men and women who strive to be the lasting difference between life and death, the first responders, are governed not only by the rules and regulations of their departments, but by the laws of the United States Constitution. Although there are exceptions to every rule, they have to abide by the ones set down by our Constitution and provide every citizen with these rights. It is imperative to the justice system, as we know it and a deterrent to collecting evidence that can be found tainted or inadmissible in court, hence wasting the taxpayers' money.