Crime Scene Investigation: A Guide to Law Enforcement

National Forensic Science Technology Center


  1. Arriving at the Scene: Initial Response/ Prioritization of Efforts
    1. Initial Response/ Receipt of Information
    2. Safety Procedures
    3. Emergency Care
    4. Secure and Control Persons at the Scene
    5. Boundaries: Identify, Establish, Protect and Secure
    6. Turn Over Control of the Scene and Brief Investigator(s) in Charge
    7. Document Actions and Observations
    8. Establish a Command Post (Incident Command System) and Make Notifications
    9. Manage Witnesses
  2. Preliminary Documentation and Evaluation of the Scene
    1. Conduct Scene Assessment
    2. Conduct Scene “Walk-Through” and Initial Documentation
    3. Note-Taking and Logs
  3. Processing the Scene
    1. Determine Team Composition
    2. Ensure Contamination Control
    3. Documentation
      • Sketching
      • Photography
      • Videography
    4. Prioritize Collection of Evidence
    5. Crime Scene Search Methods
    6. Collect, Preserve, Inventory, Package, Transport, and Submit Evidence
    7. Detailed Crime Scene Evidence Collection
      • Ignitable Liquids
      • Bodily Fluids
      • Male Suspect Evidence Collection, Including Sexual Assault
      • Bombs and Explosives
      • Documents
      • Firearms
      • Ammunition
      • Tool Mark Evidence
      • Trace Evidence
      • Footwear and Tire Impressions
      • Footwear Impression Evidence
      • Motor Vehicles
      • Electronic and Digital Evidence
      • Fingerprints
      • Comparison/Elimination Prints
      • Tool Mark Evidence
  4. Completing and Recording the Crime Scene Investigation
    1. Establish Crime Scene Debriefing Team
    2. Perform Final Survey of the Crime Scene
    3. Documentation of the Crime Scene
    4. Acknowledge Specialized Crime Scene Circumstances
      • Crime Scene Investigation in Correctional and Custodial Facilities
      • Time-Limited Crime Scene Investigation
  5. Crime Scene Equipment
    1. Initial Responding Officer(s)
    2. Crime Scene Investigator/Evidence Technician
    3. Evidence Collection Kits (Examples)
  6. Appendices
    • Appendix A. Glossary
    • Appendix B. Reference List
    • Appendix C. Diagrams

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This updated Crime Scene Investigation: A Guide to Law Enforcement is a revision of the original publication published in January 2000, and borrows heavily from that work. The original publication was based upon the work of the National Crime Scene Planning Panel and additional Technical Working Group Members. Their contributions remain as vital today as when the original Guide was published.

To develop this expanded edition, a Review Committee of recognized experts was assembled. This committee selected additional material from content developed for Department of Justice-funded crime scene projects, Scientific Working Groups and other open-source documents, which are reflected in the Reference section. Additional vetting of the material was accomplished through recognized subject matter experts.

NFSTC wishes to thank the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) for providing input to this project.

The resulting document includes detailed procedural guides for the complete range of crime scene investigation tasks – from securing the scene to submitting the evidence. This publication provides law enforcement professionals and first responders step-by-step guidance in this crucial first phase of the justice process.

Agencies are encouraged to use this reference to enhance existing training and promote quality. While these methods can be implemented at any agency, jurisdictions will want to carefully consider the procedures and their applicability to local agencies and circumstances.

Revision of this guide was conducted by the National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC), supported under cooperative agreements 2009-D1-BX-K028 and 2010-DD-BX-K009 by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and 2007-MU-BX-K008 by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

Opinions or points of view expressed in this document represent a consensus of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Justice.