Picture this, you are defending a client in what seems to be an open-and-shut case. In the past year, you have spent countless hours pouring over evidence, compiling data, and painting a clear picture in favor of your client. As you walk into court on the first day of trial, you feel nothing but confidence, thanks to thorough and pain-staking preparation over the past months.
Now, imagine walking out of court just hours later, with a loss; all because the foundational evidence which the case was built around, was collected improperly.
It's not likely you compiled the digital evidence personally, but it is important to understand, the method of data collection means all the difference in the outcome of the case.
This is particularly true for digital forensic data collection, which is a major portion of evidence in cases today.
One unfortunate example, occurred with Chipotle in 2018, regarding unfair termination of an employee who was accused of stealing from the company. While the theft was allegedly captured on security footage, Chipotle lost the video file and was unable to resurface any digital communications from management surrounding the incident at the time of her dismissal. Unfortunately, the defense failed to retrieve their evidence in a way that was forensically sound and secure. This miss step cost the company the case, and $8 million in damages to be paid out to the fired employee.
While these kinds of cases show all signs of being an easy win, their success ultimately relies on whether the mountain of evidence is built on a solid foundation of forensically sound data.
What makes digital data collection forensically sound, and how can you ensure the evidence you compile can be used properly in legal proceedings?
Forensically sound data collection first depends on how it is initially collected. Whether it is in person through an on-site visit by an experienced digital forensics company, or remotely through a mailed kit or network investigation, this part of the process must be performed in compliance with meticulous security standards. In court, any shortcomings or corners cut throughout the collection process may be brought to light, contributing to whether evidence may be suppressed.
Once the data is forensically and securely collected it has to be processed into a searchable, indexed format for easy and accurate review and investigation. This includes keyword flagging, pattern matching, data tagging, and filtering; ensuring that the facts and conclusions drawn from the evidence can be supported when presented in judicial proceedings.
In the case of criminal misconduct or legal disputes, it is crucial to have expert witness testimony to speak for the digital forensics data collected. Painting a picture of what the data shows, personally speaking to the collection standards, and defending the implications that can be drawn from it. Without knowledgeable, expert testimony, lawyers run the risk of hitting a block in cross-examination. It is important to have expert technical knowledge on hand to explain or provide supplementary details to maintain the credibility of the evidence.
With entire cases depending on digital forensic data, it is vital that your firm builds a relationship with a computer forensic partner that operates at the highest industry standard and is well-experienced in both legal technology and forensic data collection.
Exhibit A Forensics conducts digital investigations such that each step in the forensic process is completed by the book. You can rest easy knowing that your case is built on a strong foundation. If your firm is currently building a case requiring digital forensic investigation, or you just want to learn more about the legal technology services available to you, we’re happy to see how we can work together. You can connect with us directly here, or reach out through Linkedin.