Forensic Triage: A Guide for Prosecutors

Authors: PCE, NRTAC

As the demand for forensic evidence has exploded, so has the pressure on crime laboratories to keep pace with an ever-growing workload. This paper, developed by PCE’s Executive Director Kristine Hamann and St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office Chief of Trials Rachel Smith, addresses the critical question of how best to maximize the resources of a public forensic laboratory. This question is explored in three different parts, each with an emphasis on the prosecutor’s perspective:

Part 1: How to create an executive level Customer Working Group and its benefits

Part 2: Various considerations for prioritizing the collection and testing of forensic evidence from a crime scene

Part 3: Detailed triage considerations for forensic evidence associated with crime guns and the collection of data to further inform and improve the process

In order to reflect the breadth of strategies as well as variations in resources and crime challenges, approaches are highlighted from across the country. Interviews with prosecutors, police, and laboratory personnel were conducted in Arizona, California, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, and at the Department of Justice. These interviews provided guiding principles and useful methods for balancing the various needs associated with investigating a criminal case.