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The final link in the evidence custody chain is disposition. Proper final disposition of evidence is paramount to the integrity of the evidence custody system as a whole.

Any evidence that was used in a judicial proceeding normally is not disposed of until the trial and appeal process has been completed. Authorization disposal of evidence while a case is on appeal must be obtained from the cognizant staff judge advocate or the staff judge advocate of the next senior command. If the evidence was used in a federal, state, or municipal court, the authorization must be obtained from the prosecuting attorney before disposal.

When the evidence in question was used in an administrative proceeding, authorization must be obtained from the staff judge advocate or legal officer of the command that has control over the person against whom the action was taken.

Evidence that was entered into the evidence custody system but not used in a judicial or administrative proceeding nor is pending such a proceeding may be disposed of after a minimum period of 6 months with the security officer's authorization.

When requesting disposition of evidence, the authorizing command/agency may exercise any one of four options:

l Dispose of the evidence appropriately

l Return the evidence to the owner or the government agency that owns or is accountable for the property

. Transfer the evidence to the cognizant staff judge advocate, legal officer, or civil authority 

. Retain the evidence in custody

Once final disposal authority has been received and annotated on the evidence custody document and in the evidence log, the chain of custody is complete, and the item should be removed from the evidence system. The original and first copy of the custody document are retained in the final disposition file. All evidence custody documentation should be retained for 5 years from the date of final disposition For more information on disposition of evidence, see the Navy Law Enforcement Manual.


In this chapter, we explained the importance of physical evidence and listed the three general categories of evidence. Guidelines used to evaluate physical evidence were also considered. The chain of custody for evidence was covered along with the forms and records used to safeguard evidence. Next, we discussed the standards for physical protection of evidence and the methods for transfer and shipment. Finally, we outlined the steps necessary for delivery of evidence to a laboratory, and then covered the procedures for evidence disposal.


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