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Digital Evidence in Criminal Trials

January 2, 2020

By its very definition, digital or electronic evidence is any information that is stored or has been transmitted in digital form. It may be used at trial if the court determines it to be relevant. To admit it, the court must find out whether it is authentic and decide if they would accept a copy or if the original is necessary.

The use of digital forensics in the courtroom, as can be expected, has increased as emails, digital photographs, text messages, files, and other items are accepted. However, the very nature of digital evidence makes it necessary for the courts to treat it differently than other types of evidence. It tends to be more difficult to destroy but can also easily be modified or duplicated.

Where can digital evidence be found?

Digital evidence can be found inside a mobile phone or a computer’s hard drive, among other devices.

What crimes are associated with digital evidence?

Although there are other cases, in general terms, digital evidence is most commonly linked to credit card fraud, child pornography, and domestic violence cases.

Relevant digital evidence, or computer forensics as it is also known, is added by law enforcement agencies to all the evidence they collect when analyzing a crime. This implies the need to have competent, fully trained officers that can also quickly learn how to keep up with rapidly evolving technologies and their potential implication when a crime is committed.

What type of digital evidence has been presented in court?

Digital evidence has been presented to the courts in a variety of areas, including:

  • Photograph enhancement
  • Audio enhancement
  • Forensic video analysis
  • Digital enhancement of latent fingerprints

How important has digital evidence become?

No doubt about it, digital evidence has increased in importance as the technologies that support it have evolved. As an example, digital evidence was key to freeing a man who spent three years in jail after being wrongly convicted of rape after his accuser presented manipulated text messages to the jury. If the police had taken the right steps to discover the real version of the text messages during the investigation, he likely would not have been arrested at all.

Why have some departments not caught up with the use of digital evidence?

The speed at which technology evolves is in itself reason enough for some police departments to lag behind. Added to that, lack of sufficient training of officers as well as budgetary limitations, make it even harder to fully incorporate this type of evidence in the courtroom. However, many officers have come in contact with digital evidence knowing that it plays an important part in how a case is resolved. Teaching officers how to deal with digital evidence, preserve it and the devices associated with it, is vitally important in today’s world.

If you need an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help you with the use of digital evidence in the courtroom, Rhode Island Attorney Brett V. Beaubien can help you get the results you seek. Schedule your initial, free consultation today.

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