A Chain of Custody is a list of individuals who handled evidence in an investigation. It serves as a paper trail that can be used by investigators or a court system to verify evidence was not tampered with.
Chain of custody (CoC), in legal contexts, is the chronological documentation or paper trail that records the sequence of custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition of materials, including physical or electronic evidence. Of particular importance in criminal cases, the concept is also applied in civil litigation and more broadly in drug testing of athletes and in supply chain management, e.g. to improve the traceability of food products, or to provide assurances that wood products originate from sustainably managed forests. It is often a tedious process that has been required for evidence to be shown legally in court. Now, however, with new portable technology that allows accurate laboratory quality results from the scene of the crime, the chain of custody is often much shorter which means evidence can be processed for court much faster.
The term is also sometimes used in the fields of history, art history, and archives as a synonym for provenance (meaning the chronology of the ownership, custody or location of a historical object, document or group of documents), which may be an important factor in determining authenticity.