The strategy to solve criminal cases has been revolutionized by using digital evidence.
Due to the availability of digital devices all around the world, digital evidence is growing at a fast pace.
No doubt, digital evidence helps to solve cases faster and draw more accurate and efficient results, but it is fragile and can easily be altered or destroyed and challenged in court.
Therefore, maintaining a chain of custody for digital evidence is a legal requirement now.
If a chain of custody breaks at some point, digital evidence will be ruled inadmissible in the court and the conviction will be reversed from scratch.
So overwhelming for the officers!
According to the South Carolina Supreme Court,
You must have heard the term Chain of Custody, but what does it mean to establish a chain of custody for digital evidence?
What are some important practices to consider when handling digital evidence and maintaining the chain of custody?
And finally, how can you ensure that the chain of custody is unbroken and digital evidence is preserved?
All above-mentioned questions will be answered here in this blog!
A Brief Overview of Chain of Custody
All law enforcement officers are very familiar with the importance of chain of custody for digital evidence but let’s have a brief overview of what chain of custody is for better understanding in detail.
So, what is a chain of custody?
Establishing the chain of custody reports entails documenting a series of events happening on the digital evidence from the time of its collection, storage, analysis, and transfer till court trial and finally case closure.
The chain of custody must be maintained until the case is closed and justice is served...
For example, who has collected the evidence? Who has handled it? What was the exact time when it was collected? When was it transferred to another officer for investigation?
In this way, prosecutors prove the integrity of digital evidence in the courtroom.
Significance of Maintaining Chain of Custody for Digital Evidence
It is the legal responsibility of every law enforcement officer and investigator to prove the authenticity of digital evidence by submitting the chain of custody report before the judge.
It is the most critical component of criminal cases and must be considered significant at every step of criminal case proceedings.
Read for more information on: Why is Chain of Custody Important in a Criminal Case?
As discussed before, you need to preserve digital evidence at the time of collection and properly handle it as it is prone to damage and alteration.
A complete record of the chain of custody report with crucial details is documented to ensure that its integrity is not being compromised at any level.
According to John Petruzzi,
Digital evidence can be challenged in court. (Most common defense strategy of every defendant is to challenge the chain of custody is broken at some point or digital evidence is being tampered with).
Establishing and maintaining the chain of custody serves the following purposes:
To prove the integrity and authenticity of digital evidence in court.
To protect the digital evidence from being tampered with at any point.
To keep a complete record of the digital evidence life cycle for efficient investigative procedures.
The Process of Establishing a Chain of Custody Report
After gathering digital evidence, it is recommended to follow a series of steps to establish the chain of custody.
Do you know what the process of initiating and maintaining a chain of custody for digital evidence is?
The process is discussed below:
The process of the chain of custody starts with data collection. Investigators identify, label, record and seize the available digital evidence and digital devices present at the crime scene.
The next step is to document the tasks and capture the screenshots throughout the process to indicate the completed tasks and uncovered evidence.
This stage includes using legally justifiable methods to extract relevant information from digital evidence useful for the particular case.
In this stage, documentation is done regarding the examination and analysis stages. For example, a statement about the chain of custody.
Best Practices for Maintaining the Chain of Custody
What happens if the chain of custody is not properly maintained for digital evidence?
Digital evidence will be ruled inadmissible in court!
Therefore, it is highly significant to follow best practices while maintaining the chain of custody and protecting digital evidence.
Want to know more: What are the Best Practices for Protecting Digital evidence?
Here are some important considerations that will help you to achieve your target:
Clearly observe and assess the scene to identify which data and devices are useful for investigation before data collection. Don’t act immediately.
Never work with the original evidence. For analysis, you need to have a working copy of the original digital evidence.
Make a comprehensive report of all information important for the case. For example, case investigators, reporting agencies etc.
Ensure security of crime scenes and the first responding officers.
Secure your digital evidence in the best possible way. Think about the software that can ease your work.
Are you using any software that provides you with a centralized platform for storage, management, analysis and sharing of digital evidence with heightened security and chain of custody?
If not, we have an ideal solution for you!
VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System...
Ensure Unbroken Chain of Custody for Digital Evidence with VIDIZMO DEMS
VIDIZMO, offers you IDC MarketScape Recognized software Digital Evidence Management System, that enables law enforcement agencies and governmental organizations to ingest, store, manage, analyze, and share digital evidence securely and efficiently saving your time and improving your work productivity.
VIDIZMO DEMS is known to provide outstanding features such as secure sharing options, multilingual transcription and translation, artificial intelligence services, automatic redaction of PII, and a wide range of deployment options for your convenience.
VIDIZMO DEMS enables you to:
Gather an unlimited huge stack of digital evidence from multiple digital devices such as CCTV, drone cams, body-worn cameras, vehicle dashcams etc.
Deploy your digital evidence files on the commercial/government cloud (Azure or AWS), on-premises, or in the hybrid infrastructure.
Keep track of actions performed on digital evidence through audit logs and comprehensive chain of custody reports.
Integrate with your existing applications, RMS, CMS systems, and SSO identity providers.
Detect any alteration or changes in the digital evidence through SHA cryptographic value to prove whether evidence integrity is preserved or not (tamper detection).
Secure your digital files with AES-256 End-to-End encryption at rest, in transit or in use along with Password protection, IP address restriction, Role-Based Access Control and much more.
Detect, track, and redact PII visible in your digital files automatically using AI.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg – there is a lot more to offer!
Go for a free trial to experience the product yourself!