Evidence integrity is as critical as placing criminals behind bars or doing justice to the innocent. Therefore, protecting the integrity of digital evidence is of utmost importance during a trial.
If the evidence integrity seems suspicious and data manipulation is detected, or it has been mishandled by law enforcement officers, it can easily be challenged on the grounds that it has been tampered with, which results in case closure (every law enforcement officer’s nightmare!!!).
According to the bill HB 287 introduced by Rep. Sam Garrison of Clay County:
“Tampering with or fabricating evidence is a second-degree felony in a criminal trial or investigation relating to felonies”
Law enforcement officers and other investigators are responsible to establish the chain of custody reports and handle digital evidence properly by following rules and regulations concerning the admissibility of evidence in court.
The chain of custody holds paramount importance when it comes to digital evidence authenticity as it proves that evidence is as original as collected at the crime scene.
This article clarifies why the chain of custody is important in a criminal case trial and the best tool that helps you to maintain the chain of custody and protect digital evidence in every step of criminal case proceedings.
What Is a Chain of Custody?
Before diving deeper into its importance, one needs to understand what a chain of custody is.
Chain of custody is the document of activities performed on digital evidence by tracking its control, transfer, access, analysis, and disposition during criminal cases.
It is crucial to maintain an unbroken chain of custody report to ensure that evidence is not compromised at any point from the time of collection to its court presentation. It shows who has collected and accessed digital evidence when the evidence was transferred etc.
What Information is provided by the Chain of Custody Report?
Typically, a chain of custody report must include the following information to maintain a detailed log of activities performed on digital evidence:
- Name of the investigator or police officer
- Who collected the evidence?
- The user's email address.
- Time and date when the changes have been done in the evidence.
- Description of evidence
- Relevant serial numbers or case numbers
- Activities performed on the evidence, such as evidence has been uploaded, viewed etc.
- The IP address of the user from where the changes have been made.
Why is Chain of Custody Important for Criminal Cases?
There is no need to say that digital evidence is a key element in solving criminal cases. In order to prove the defendant is guilty or not, prosecutors must justify that the evidence presented in the court is as original as collected at the crime scene.
Learn more about: best practices for protecting digital evidence.
If any discrepancies are found due to mishandling of digital evidence, it can be challenged anytime in the court and ruled inadmissible.
Nobody wants that!
Therefore, the chain of custody is more important than digital evidence itself as it proves the integrity of evidence in court. Contrary to that, if at any point the chain of custody is broken or if it has failed to prove that it is original, then the court will declare it inadmissible.
Now, you have a clear idea of why the chain of custody is important in a criminal case. Do you know any specialized software that can collect, store, manage, analyze digital evidence, and maintain the chain of custody?
Don’t worry if nothing comes to your mind, or known software that does not provide such functionality, because we have a solution exactly suited to your needs right here!
How to Maintain the Chain of Custody With VIDIZMO DEMS?
VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) is one of the robust platforms that help to maintain the chain of custody and keep your digital evidence untampered from its collection to case closure.
VIDIZMO maintains the life cycle of evidence through a chain of custody, providing a trail of activities performed on digital evidence in detail, such as allowing access to digital evidence to an officer.
Not only that, VIDIZMO offers a secure, device-friendly IDC-Recognized Digital Evidence Management System that enables agencies to ingest, store, analyze, manage, and share digital evidence within the centralized repository with the highest levels of security layers. Its major features are as follows:
Ingesting digital evidence from multiple sources such as CCTV footage, dashcams, drone cams, body-worn cameras, audio recordings, etc.
Protecting digital evidence with end-to-end encryption at rest and in transit, FIPS-compliant, password protected, etc.
Deploying digital evidence files securely on Commercial/Government Cloud (Azure or AWS), on-premises, or in a hybrid infrastructure.
Providing tamper detection that detects any sort of alteration done in digital evidence since upload through cryptographic hash values.
Sharing digital evidence with another officer with limited access options such as view only, block download, number of views, via expiry link, or creating multiple links for each evidence file.
Assigning specific roles to each authenticated user, Role-Based Access Control with default permissions to access the digital evidence files.
Providing a detailed log of activities performed on each evidence file through a comprehensive chain of custody report.
Detecting and tracking faces, people, license plates, or other custom objects frame by frame in videos.
Redacting sensitive information shown in videos, such as the face of an officer collecting evidence at a crime scene before sharing it in public or presenting it in the courtroom.
Integrating with SSO identity providers for authentication, such as OneLogin, Okta, Azure AD, etc.
Monitoring user activities across the portal and providing notifications to authorized personnel when any activity is performed on digital evidence (Flagging of Evidence).
Feel free to learn more about VIDIZMO DEMS
To Sum it up
An unbroken chain of custody ensures that the digital evidence is legitimized and admissible in court, as this plays a crucial role in any trial because the judgment is dependent on it. Thus, a reliable and secure system is very important for the prosecutors as well as the police officers to ensure a seamless process serving justice rightly.
To learn more about our Digital Evidence management system or if you have any queries, feel free to get in touch with us or schedule a meeting with our sales representatives.
or better try it yourself