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Kenneth Vercammen & Associates
A Law Office with Experienced Attorneys for Your New Jersey Legal Needs

2053 Woodbridge Ave.
Edison NJ 08817

Personal Injury and Criminal
on Weekends 732-261-4005

Princeton Area
68 South Main St.
Cranbury, NJ 08512
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Chain of Custody in a Criminal Case

     According to N.J. Practice, Criminal Procedure by Honorable Leonard Arnold-Retired, J.S.C. (West Publishing), Volume 32, Chapter 21, Section 1034,Honorable Leonard Arnold, J.S.C. a party seeking to introduce an item of physical evidence must prove that the item was that which was taken from a particular person or place which makes the item relevant as evidence in the trial. Such proof is provided by testimony identifying the item as having been taken from that person or place, and by evidence tracing custody of the item from the time it was taken until it is offered in evidence. This latter evidence is necessary to avoid any claim of substitution or tampering. State v. Johnson, 90 N.J.Super. 105, 216 A.2d 397 (App.Div.1965), aff'd 46 N.J. 289, 216 A.2d 392 (1966).

The required proof includes:
1) testimony by an investigator identifying the item as that which the investigator discovered and took;

2) testimony by that investigator that there was no tampering with the item while it was in his/her custody;

3) testimony regarding delivery of the item to the second person who had custody of the item;

4) possibly similar testimony by the second and each subsequent person who had custody of the item until the time of its presentation in court.  Where the item has been submitted to a laboratory for analysis, proof of the chain of custody should ideally include: testimony from the person who took the item (or specimen) to the laboratory; proof of the method of reception and storage at the laboratory prior to and after analysis; up to the time of trial. Arnold, N.J. Practice, Criminal Procedure,
Sec. 1034.

The most difficult aspect of the proof specified above is usually the identification of the evidence by the investigator who discovered it. This difficulty arises because of the frequent failure to properly mark the item. Marking means the placing by the investigator of at least his/her initials on the item. Unfortunately, sometimes items are marked by affixing an evidence tag to the item with a string. The investigator then puts his/her initials on the tag. When the string breaks and the tag is lost it may then be impossible for the investigator to identify the item as being the item that was discovered. Arnold, N.J. Practice, Criminal Procedure, volume 32, Section 1034.

Many excellent texts, one such text is the Handbook of Forensic Science, published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation provide information on the proper marking of various types of evidence, and they should be studied by investigators having responsibility for the collection of physical evidence. But the basic rule is as follows: The item should be marked by the investigator placing his/her initials, date, and the case number on the item itself. Metallic surfaces should be so marked
with a machinist's scribe. Liquids, soils and small fragments should be placed in a suitable container and sealed. The container should be marked by scribing the same information on the container, or by using some other permanent form of marking material on the container. Arnold, N.J. Practice, Criminal Procedure, Volume 32, Section 1034.

With respect to avoiding a claim of substitution of another item for that seized or a claim that the item has been tampered with, the problems of proof can be minimized by designating one investigator as the custodian of all the physical evidence in a given investigation.

All investigators who recover physical evidence must turn that evidence over to the custodian, who is then responsible for the evidence from that time forward until trial. Where evidence must be submitted to a laboratory, the custodian delivers that evidence to the laboratory, and obtains a receipt from the laboratory. When the laboratory has completed its examination, it is the custodian who returns to the laboratory, receives the remaining specimen1 from the laboratory, and retains custody of the specimen and brings it to court for trial. By following this procedure, all the physical evidence can be introduced by
calling the various investigators who recovered and marked each item of physical evidence, the custodian, and the laboratory specialist who examined the evidence. (The laboratory specialist testifies not only with respect to the laboratory examination, the specialist's findings and opinion, but also as to the method of reception and storage at the laboratory prior to and after analysis.) Arnold, N.J. Practice, Criminal Procedure, Volume 32, Section 1034.

The identification of evidence and chain of evidence rules require that the proponent of the evidence show that the evidence has not been tampered with, and that there has not been any irregularity which altered its probative value. State v. Roszkowski, 129 N.J. Super. 315, 323 A2d 531 (App.Div. 1974).

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Since 1985, KENNETH VERCAMMEN has worked as a personal injury attorney, working for injury victims and their families. By taking a hard-hitting, aggressive approach toward the insurance companies, KENNETH VERCAMMEN and our co-counsel have consistently obtained outstanding results for many injured clients over the years I am proud to have worked on cases in various capacities, small and large. While obviously prior results cannot guarantee the outcome of future cases, I can guarantee that you case will receive the same degree of dedication and hard work that went into each of these prior cases.

In direct contrast to the hard-hitting approach we take toward the insurance companies is the soft approach we take toward our clients. I am proud of my compassionate staff as I am of the outstanding financial results they have achieved. For many years, I have watched them treat our clients with patience, dignity and respect. I would have it no other way.

Many years ago, I attended a seminar sponsored by the American Bar Association on Law Practice Management. This was to help insure that each of our clients is always treated like a person -- not a file! We recognize that you are innocent victims and that you have placed your trust in us. Please understand that we understand what you are going through. Feel comforted that we are here to help you.

If you retain KENNETH VERCAMMEN to represent you, we will give you the same advice we give each of our clients -- concentrate on your life, you family and your health. We will take care of everything else. Leave all of the work and worry about your legal rights to us. Trust us. Believe in us. Have faith in us as your attorneys. Understand that we will always to do what we believe is best for you and your case. Helping you is our job. In fact, it is our only job -- guiding injury victims like you through one of the most difficult times of your lives, with care and concern -- while fighting aggressively to the limits of the law to obtain compensation and justice for each of you!

Print our Personal Injury Questionnaire on our Website, Fill it out and Fax back, so we can determine if we can help you obtain an injury settlement. We would welcome an opportunity to prove to you what we have proven to thousands of injured clients -- that you can feel comfortable and secure in the fact that KENNETH VERCAMMEN - Trial Attorney We Fight To Win.

When you have been injured in an accident or collision, you are worried about who is going to pay your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. The last thing you want is to be taken advantage of by an insurance company. If you dont protect your rights, you may not be able to make a claim.

Insurance companies have attorneys and adjusters whose goal is to pay you as little as they can. You need a New Jersey personal injury lawyer to fight for you. I am dedicated to helping your recover as much money as possible under the law.

You need an attorney who will work hard to protect your rights, maximize your insurance settlement and minimize the hassles of dealing with the insurance companies. You need an experienced and aggressive New Jersey trial lawyer with PROVEN RESULTS who will fight for you. Having an experienced personal injury lawyer can make the difference between getting what you deserve and getting nothing.

Without the threat of a lawyer who is willing to go to trial and seek a big jury verdict, why would an insurance company pay you what your claim is really worth? Lawsuits can be expensive, and many people do not have the money to pursue their claim. In every case, I advance all costs associated with pursuing your case and I do not ask you for a penny until we recover from the other side.

I am an experienced aggressive trial lawyer and a 3rd degree Black Belt. I am not afraid to take your case to trial if that is what it takes to maximize the amount of money your recover for your personal injury. I offer one-on-one service, and I will not hand your case off to an inexperienced lawyer or a paralegal.

Reduce the stress of making a claim.

Personal injury accidents can turn your life upside down. Making a personal injury claim can be difficult and time consuming. Once I take your case, you can stop worrying about dealing with the insurance companies and focus on recovering from your injuries. I take care of all of the paperwork, phone calls, and negotiations, so you can get on with your life.

p.s. For those clients who are afraid or reluctant to go to Court, KENNETH VERCAMMEN also offers a special -- For Settlement Only -- program. This means that if we are unable to settle with the insurance company, we will not go any further -- unless you want us to. You have my personal assurance that there will be absolutely no pressure and no obligation.

We handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis.

This means:

Call our office to schedule a "confidential" appointment 732-572-0500

Kenneth A. Vercammen is the Managing Attorney at Kenneth Vercammen & Associates in Edison, NJ. He is a New Jersey trial attorney has devoted a substantial portion of his professional time to the preparation and trial of litigated matters. He has appeared in Courts throughout New Jersey each week on personal injury matters, Criminal /Municipal Court trials, and contested Probate hearings.

Mr. Vercammen has published over 125 legal articles in national and New Jersey publications on criminal, elder law, probate and litigation topics. He is a highly regarded lecturer on litigation issues for the American Bar Association, NJ ICLE, New Jersey State Bar Association and Middlesex County Bar Association. His articles have been published in noted publications included New Jersey Law Journal, ABA Law Practice Management Magazine, and New Jersey Lawyer. He is the Editor in Chief of the American Bar Association Tort and Insurance Committee Newsletter.

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