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Why Is Chain of Custody Important in a Criminal Case? 

This article highlights why is a chain of custody necessary to prove the authenticity of digital evidence and how VIDIZMO presents the best solution.
by Sidra Jabeen Updated on April 18, 2022

Evidence integrity is as critical as placing criminals behind bars. Therefore, protecting the integrity of digital evidence is of utmost importance.

If the evidence integrity is suspicious or is not handled properly by law enforcement officers, it can 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 recording its control, transfer, analysis, and disposition during criminal cases.

It is crucial to maintain a complete 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 investigator or police officer
  • Who collected the evidence?
  • 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 Change 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.

If any discrepancies are found due to mishandling of digital evidence, it can be challenged anytime in the court and ruled inadmissible.

Court Order

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, because we have a solution exactly suited to you 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.

VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System Portal Display

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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 

More About VIDIZMO   Digital Evidence Management System

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Posted by Sidra Jabeen

Sidra is a Technology Content Strategist at VIDIZMO. Sidra is actively involved in Research. An expert in Digital Evidence Management System Technologies. For Queries, you can email at sidra.jabeen@vidizmo.com

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