Computers, phones, iPads, and other electronic devices are used for many things. Activities can include writing personal emails to family and friends, keeping track of finances, internet surfing, and social media. The amount of information that can be stored on any digital device is vast. Add cloud-based storage, and the amount of data might be enough to paint a detailed picture of who you are and what you like to do. Plus, that information can go back 10 or more years. It’s no wonder that law enforcement would want to search digital evidence when a crime is associated.

What is Digital Evidence?

Digital evidence is information stored or sent in electronic form. It can include digital images, voice recordings, and audio files. Digital evidence can be stored on a computer hard drive, a mobile phone, a tablet, and even cloud-based storage on an internet server.

What is Digital Forensics?

The process of identifying, extracting, and analyzing digital evidence is referred to as digital forensics. Digital forensics is used to recover data from an electronic device that holds electronically stored information (ESI). This process provides a forensic team with the best techniques and tools to find evidence from digital modalities and solve complicated digital-related cases. Some examples include password-protected files and evidence that can self-destruct.

Digital forensics is essential to preserve digital evidence. For digital evidence to be admissible in a courtroom, it must be recovered legally and the information must be authentic.

Different Types of Digital Forensics

There are several types of digital forensics. Each category has its own rules.

  • Computer forensics – examines evidence found on computers and digital storage media and includes active, modified, or deleted files. The purpose is to identify, preserve, recover, analyze, and present facts and opinions about digital information.
  • Network forensics – relates to monitoring and analyzing computer network traffic. The purpose is to collect essential information and legal evidence.
  • Database forensics – studies and examines databases and their metadata.
  • Mobile device forensics – acquires and analyzes mobile devices to recover digital evidence.

Digital Evidence Use in Criminal Cases

Before the days of electronic devices, law enforcement was required to obtain search warrants and physically comb through pages and pages of documentary evidence. It would be unlikely that police would uncover previous trashed drafts of a written document unless they were saved.

With electronic devices, the sheer amount of data that can be searched is more intrusive than in the past since electronic devices can store years of information. What’s more, the substantive data isn’t the only thing being searched. Digital forensics can uncover metadata, which is general information about the data.

That means that law enforcement can uncover the date a document was created and when it was altered. It can view the length of the record, the image resolution, and even an IP address for where the email was sent. Police could view all this information even if files were deleted.

If you stand accused of a crime and law enforcement has seized any of your electronic devices for a search, you must facilitate your own forensic testing for criminal defense. An experienced cyber crime defense attorney can ensure that all the evidence has been gathered, included metadata.

Proper Search of Digital Evidence Requires a Search Warrant

Your rights under the law require that a law enforcement agency has a valid search warrant to search your electronic devices. A proper search warrant is based on reliable information of a witness or information. It must have an affidavit of probable cause attached. The warrant must also be signed by a judge.

At Moorhead Law Group, we have challenged the use of digital evidence. If you have been served a warrant for your electronic devices, contact us here for a free consultation.