Admissibility of any particular item of evidence is determined on a case-by-case basis by trial judges. Trial judges have wide discretion in making these decisions that should be guided by the rules of evidence, which vary by state and jurisdiction and take into consideration multiple factors. To be admissible, evidence must be relevant, meaning that it has a tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence and the fact is of consequence in determining the case. Other elements in admissibility decisions include whether parties offering evidence have shown that the evidence is actually what they claim it to be and admitting it would not unfairly prejudice the jury. Leda Health has worked on developing protocols aimed at ensuring that evidence collected through its kit will be authentic and reliable. See FAQ about chain of custody.
Because Leda Health is on the forefront of developing and producing self-administered sexual assault kits, we are not aware of any cases addressing this specific issue. We are aware of cases, however, in which self-collected evidence has been admitted in a sexual assault cases.
It is important to keep in mind that Leda Health does not guarantee that the results of your particular self-administered sexual assault kit will be admissible as that decision is reserved for the trial judge. We believe though that courts should admit our kit results, especially if all our protocols are followed. Our protocols are designed so that the evidence collected properly is reliable and when presented to the jury is what it is claimed to be. But also remember that DNA samples are only one piece of evidence in a case. Other evidence like photos, testimonies and witnesses are important and may be crucial to making the best case. Our mobile application also supports the time-stamped storage of photos, witness statements and other pieces of evidence.
Establishing a chain of custody may be necessary to admit an item of evidence in a court of law. A robust chain of custody requires that everyone who handles an item of evidence and every location the evidence is stored is documented and accounted for. The purpose of this is so parties at trial may examine whether evidence is what it is claimed to be and not something different or altered. States and jurisdictions handle defects in a chain a custody differently; some require a nearly infallible chain of custody for admissibility while others allow defects to go to the weight a jury should give an item of evidence and not prevent its ultimate admissibility. Additionally, if a trial judge believes evidence was tampered with along the chain of custody, the court may choose not to admit it.