Is the criminal justice system ready for the landslide of digital evidence?

The justice system is just starting to feel the effects of the digital age.  Evidence is everywhere now and there is data sources coming from everywhere.  The adoption of body camera's by law enforcement, eyewitness video's and social media is providing a plethora of data that can be used to help prosecutors and defense attorney's alike.  The challenge is making that data available and useful when it is most relevant.  State, county and local governments don't have the forensic analysts needed to view the deluge of data.  And unlike physical evidence, digital evidence is more volatile and susceptible to corruption if not properly handled.  Digital data from social media, mobile phone videos, email and devices can be easily edited, deleted or fabricated.  So tracking chain of custody is as important as identifying relative "moments" of data out of hundreds if not thousands of hours of video, texts and website visits.  All these can be pivotal to a case. The justice systems in many counties and cities just don't have the forensic analysts to sit through hours of digital evidence.  The justice system has to find a better way to track, share and mark the digital evidence for timely availability to those working on the case.

The main challenges with this landslide of digital information is in four main functional areas:

1. No data standards, digital data comes in to many file formats, making it hard to store and share with everyone.

2. Expansive IT infrastructure, the IT departments are not ready for the cost of expanding storage, compute for video processing and governance to ensure compliance to retention standards.

3. Lack of resources, the justice system does not have enough personnel to process the growing volume of digital evidence.

4. Difficult to share and track,sharing the information throughout the justice system and marking relative digital evidence data points while ensuring "chain of custody" integrity.

The answer to all these challenges is not one magic bullet but a multi-pronged approach of process, technology and standards.  Legislation at a national level can help to start to tame the standards to make it easier in the future to manage digital evidence.  To learn more about how we can help your organization manage digital evidence, give us a call or email us.

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