Fire Scene Evidence Collection Guide
Cigarettes & Cigars
Cigarettes/cigars can be employed as a delay device for explosives and incendiaries. They may also be found at the scene where a suspect consumed them and can thus possibly link a suspect to a scene if DNA or trace can be recovered.
To collect a cigarette or cigar butt:
Butts may contain bodily fluids. When collecting, observe Universal Precautions. Wear new, unused, clean latex or nitrile gloves, respiratory, and eye protection if necessary.
Photograph the butt in place.
If the butt is wet, place it on new, clean, dry paper. Place the butt and paper in a draft-free, dry location that is secure, ensuring no one will touch, step on, remove, or displace the butt. Allow the butt to air dry. Do not package the butt when wet; it may putrefy and therefore lose its evidentiary value.
When the butt is dry, package it in an appropriately-sized, air-permeable but closed container, such as a cardboard box. Do not use plastic bags, glass vials, or other airtight packaging because humidity buildup may cause degradation of the evidence. If possible, use a container that minimizes movement of the butt to prevent shaking out any remaining tobacco. Make sure the container you select will protect the butt from crushing and, if fingerprints are to be lifted, secure the butt with a tie so the fingerprints are not compromised by excessive contact with the packaging material. Before inserting the butt in the package, label the package with identifying information, including case number, date, exhibit number, a brief description, and your name. Insert the butt, seal the packaging with evidence tape, and initial and date the tape.
Store the item in a secure location, such as a locked evidence van or your vehicle, until you are able to transport it to the laboratory.
If the cigarette or cigar butt will also be examined for ignitable liquid residue, please consult the laboratory for the proper collection procedure. Items should not be air-dried or packaged in an air-permeable container if they will be examined for ignitable liquid residue.
Laboratory testing of cigarettes and cigars:
Cigarette and cigar butts can contain fingerprints, saliva (for DNA analysis), lipstick, or other residue (trace evidence analysis). The laboratory can compare the questioned evidence obtained from the cigarette/cigar butt to known samples. The lab can also describe the class characteristics of the brand, which may be useful in providing investigative leads or associations with a suspect. A cigarette may also be associated to other cigarettes in a pack, and a pack to a carton through codes found on the cigarette butts.
Crime Scene and Evidence Collection Handbook. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 2005.