Photographic Documentation for Domestic Violence Cases at the Crime Scene
Photographic Documentation for Domestic Violence Cases
The goal of crime-scene photographic documentation is to create a visual record that will allow the forensics lab and the prosecuting attorney to easily recreate an accurate view of the scene. Using digital and film cameras, different types of film, various lenses, flashes, filters, a tripod, a sketchpad, graph paper, pens and pencils, measuring tape, rulers and a notepad at this stage of the investigation; and perhaps a camcorder and/or camera boom.
Scene photographic documentation occurs during a second walk-through of the scene (following the same path as the initial walk-through). Various ways to document a crime scene are: take photos, create sketches, take detailed notes; perform a video walk-through.
Note-taking at a crime scene photographic documentation is not as straightforward as it may seem. When describing a crime scene, a factual observation is made without drawing any conclusions.
Take pictures of everything before touching or moving a single piece of evidence. There are three types of photographs to document the crime scene: overviews, mid-views, and close-ups.
Overview shots are the widest possible views of the entire scene. If the scene is indoors, this includes:
- views of all rooms (not just the room where the crime seems to have occurred), with photos taken from each corner and, if a boom is present, overhead
- views of the outside of the building where the crime happened, including photos of all entrances and exits
- views of the building showing its relation to surrounding structures
- photos of any spectators at the scene
These last shots might identity a possible witness or even a suspect. Sometimes, criminals do return to the scene of the crime (this is particularly true in arson cases).
Mid-range photos come next. These shots show key pieces of evidence in context, so the photo includes not only the evidence but also its location in a room and its distance from other pieces of evidence.
Close-ups of individual pieces of evidence. This includes close up photos of the victim’s injuries. For these pictures, a tripod and professional lighting techniques should be used to achieve the best possible detail and clarity — these photos will provide the forensics lab with views to assist in analyzing the evidence. Take a second set of close-up shots that includes a ruler for scale.
In addition to creating a photographic documentation record of the scene, create sketches to depict both the entire scene, which is easier to do in a sketch than in a photograph because a sketch can span several rooms, and aspects of the scene that will benefit from exact measurements. The goal is to show locations of evidence and how each piece of evidence relates to rest of scene. The sketch artist may indicate details like the height of a door frame, the exact size of the room, the distance from the window to the door and the diameter of the hole in the wall above the victim’s body.
Scene documentation may also include a video walk-through. A video recording can offer a better feel for the layout of the crime scene — how long it takes to get from one room to another and how many turns are involved, for instance. Also, once the investigation is further along, it may reveal something that was overlooked at the scene because the investigators didn’t know to look for it. During a video walk-through, capture the entire crime scene and surrounding areas from every angle and provides a constant audio narrative.
On behalf of the children and families we serve, thank you very much. Please do your best in protecting the innocent.
I cannot thank you enough,
Hope for Children Foundation Board of Director Members