A legal term describing the "loss, destruction, or material alteration" of an item of evidence by a person who is responsible for its preservation. Spoliation may occur before (i.e, by trampling of evidence at the scene) or after (i.e., by improper packaging that causes damage or putrefication) the item is collected. Spoliation may also occur during or after the item has been examined, if it is deemed that the change to the item affects the ability of any subsequent examiner to obtain the same value from the item as did any prior investigator. Spoliation can cause the court to apply a remedy such as discovery sanctions, fines, and exclusion of evidence or expert testimony. The investigator can avoid spoliation by properly securing the scene, documenting items before collection, collecting items properly, packaging and transporting evidence properly, and following proper decontamination procedures.
For more information on this term, see the interFIRE VR Resource File articles: Spoliation of Evidence: A Fire Scene Dilemma and Watch Out for Civil Tort Liability for Spoliation of Evidence!