Code of the District of Columbia

Part B. Preservation of Crime Investigation Records — Law Enforcement Agencies.


§ 5–113.31. Definitions.

For the purposes of this part, the term:

(1) “Biological material” means a sexual assault forensic examination kit, semen, vaginal fluid, blood, saliva, observable skin tissue, or hair which apparently derived from the perpetrator of a crime or, under circumstances that may be probative of the perpetrator’s identity, apparently derived from the victim of a crime.

(2) “Case jacket” means the primary file for an investigation of a crime which contains all of the investigative reports, papers, and documents specific to the investigation, including notes, transcripts of interviews, witness statements, photos, and audio and video tapes.

(3)(A) “Closed investigation” means the investigation of a crime:

(i) In which the suspect or, in a case with multiple suspects, each of the suspects:

(I) Has been found or pled guilty and judgment has been entered;

(II) Has been found not guilty by reason of insanity;

(III) Has been found incompetent to stand trial and is not likely to regain competency before the expiration of the statute of limitations;

(IV) Is incarcerated and serving a sentence of either life without release or a term of years that is equivalent to life without release for a crime other than the crime being investigated; or

(V) Has died; or

(ii) In which the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia or the Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia has declined prosecution on grounds that permanently eliminate all possibility of prosecution and has authorized the return of evidence to the rightful owner.

(B) A law enforcement agency shall consider a crime closed under subparagraph (A)(i)(IV) or (V) of this paragraph only if the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia or the Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia has certified, for investigations under the prosecutorial jurisdiction of each, that there would be sufficient evidence to prosecute the suspect or suspects if the suspect or suspects were alive or not incarcerated, and declines prosecution on the grounds that the suspect or suspects are dead or incarcerated.

(4) “Crime scene examination case file” means the primary file for an investigation’s crime scene which contains investigative documents and reports; toxicology, DNA testing, and other forensic examination results; evidence reports; photographs; and other documents pertaining to the investigation.

(5) “DNA” means deoxyribonucleic acid.

(6) “DNA testing” means forensic DNA analysis of biological material.

(7) “Domestic partner” has the same meaning as contained in § 32-701(3).

(8) “Family” means:

(A) A homicide victim’s spouse, spouse’s parents, domestic partner, children, including biological, step, and adopted, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, stepparents, nieces, nephews, siblings, or half siblings;

(B) A person who is a survivor of a homicide victim and who was primarily dependent upon the victim for care and support at the time of the commission of the homicide, including a child of the victim born after the victim’s death; or

(C) A person who is a survivor of a homicide victim and upon whom the victim was primarily dependent for care and support at the time of the commission of the homicide.

(9) “Law enforcement agencies” means the Metropolitan Police Department, the Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia, prosecutors, or any other governmental agency, with the exception of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, that has the authority to investigate, make arrests for, or prosecute or adjudicate District of Columbia criminal or delinquency offenses. The term “law enforcement agencies” shall include law enforcement agencies that have entered into cooperative agreements with the Metropolitan Police Department pursuant to § 5-133.17, to the extent the law enforcement agency is acting pursuant to such a cooperative agreement.

(10) “Open investigation” means the investigation of a crime other than those considered to be closed investigations as described in paragraph (3) of this section.

(11) “Records retention schedule” means a document listing all of the records originating in the Metropolitan Police Department, specifying series of records to be retained permanently, and authorizing on a continued basis the destruction of other series of records after a specified time period has elapsed.

(12) “Statute of limitations” means the time limitations imposed on actions for criminal violations pursuant to § 23-113.


(July 15, 2004, D.C. Law 15-174, § 101, 51 DCR 3677.)

Section References

This section is referenced in § 5-1412.


§ 5–113.32. Retention of records and preservation of evidence from open homicide, sexual assault, and violent crime investigations.

(a) In open investigations of the crimes listed in § 23-113(a)(1), law enforcement agencies shall retain case jackets, crime scene examination case files, and any evidence collected during the course of the investigation for 65 years from the date the crime is first reported to the law enforcement agency.

(b) In open investigations of the following crimes, law enforcement agencies shall retain case jackets, crime scene examination case files, and any evidence collected during the course of the investigation for the length of each crime’s statute of limitations:

(1) Assault with intent to kill;

(2) Aggravated assault;

(3) Assault on a police officer with a dangerous weapon;

(4) Burglary;

(5) Mayhem;

(6) Malicious disfigurement;

(7) Sexual abuse and sex offenses, except for the crimes listed in § 23-113(a)(1)(G) through (U); and

(8) Any crime of violence, as that term is defined in section § 22-4501, that is committed while armed, as that term is described in § 22-4502.

(c) Evidence preserved pursuant to subsections (a) and (b) of this section shall be preserved in such a manner, including if necessary by refrigeration, as to maintain the ability to conduct forensic testing, including DNA testing.

(d) Law enforcement agencies shall not be required to preserve evidence pursuant to subsections (a) and (b) of this section that is of such a size, bulk, or physical character as to render retention impracticable. If practicable, law enforcement agencies shall remove and preserve portions of evidence if such portions contain sufficient evidence to permit future DNA or other forensic testing. When it is not practicable to preserve evidence pursuant to this subsection, law enforcement agencies shall photograph the evidence before disposing of it. When it is not practicable to preserve evidence in its entirety but portions of it are preserved pursuant to this subsection, law enforcement agencies shall photograph the evidence:

(1) Prior to removing portions of the evidence; and

(2) After removing portions of the evidence and before disposing of it.

(e) Photographs of evidence created pursuant to subsection (d) of this section shall be retained in the crime scene examination case files of the corresponding investigation.

(f) In closed investigations of the following crimes, law enforcement agencies shall retain case jackets and crime scene examination case files for as long as evidence is preserved for those investigations pursuant to Chapter 41A of Title 22 [§ 22-4131 et seq.]:

(1) Homicides;

(2) Assault with intent to kill;

(3) Aggravated assault;

(4) Burglary;

(5) Assault on a police officer with a dangerous weapon;

(6) Mayhem;

(7) Malicious disfigurement;

(8) Sexual abuse and sex offenses; and

(9) Any crime of violence, as that term is defined in § 22-4501, that is committed while armed, as that term is described in § 22-4502.

(g) Case jackets, crime scene examination case files, and evidence from open and closed homicide investigations shall not, under any circumstance, be destroyed or disposed of without the written approval of the Chief or the Property Clerk of the Metropolitan Police Department and without prior written approval of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, for investigations under the prosecutorial jurisdiction of the United States Attorney, and the Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia, for investigations under the prosecutorial jurisdiction of the Corporation Counsel.

(h) Nothing in this section shall prohibit law enforcement agencies from:

(1) Combining case jackets and crime scene examination files into one file;

(2) Destroying duplicative copies of a record or document; or

(3) Storing case jackets and crime scene investigation files electronically, so long as electronic storage will not compromise the admissibility of the records or documents.

(i) Nothing in this section shall be construed as a requirement that a law enforcement agency shall collect a particular item of evidence, in whole or in part.


(July 15, 2004, D.C. Law 15-174, § 102, 51 DCR 3677; May 3, 2019, D.C. Law 22-311, § 2, 66 DCR 1398.)

Section References

This section is referenced in § 5-113.33.


§ 5–113.33. Penalties; private right of action.

(a) Whoever willfully or maliciously destroys, alters, conceals, or tampers with evidence or records that are being preserved and retained in accordance with this part shall be subject to:

(1) Administrative sanctions, if the individual is an employee of the District of Columbia government, up to and including termination; and

(2) A fine of not more than $5,000, imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

(b) Whoever willfully or maliciously destroys, alters, conceals, or tampers with evidence or records that are being preserved and retained in accordance with this part may be the subject of a civil action brought in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by the family of a victim of homicide or by the victim of a crime enumerated in § 5-113.32(b) or (f). The civil action may be brought against the District of Columbia government employee or employees responsible, or against the District of Columbia if a pattern of violations of this section can be established.

(c) Subsection (b) of this section shall only apply to the willful or malicious destruction, alteration, concealment, or tampering with evidence or records that occurs on or after July 15, 2004.


(July 15, 2004, D.C. Law 15-174, § 103, 51 DCR 3677.)


§ 5–113.34. Records retention schedule.

The Metropolitan Police Department shall issue a records retention schedule, in the form of a general order, consistent with this part.


(July 15, 2004, D.C. Law 15-174, § 104, 51 DCR 3677.)