Police departments process a mind-boggling amount of sensitive digital evidence, so it’s critical that the evidence be carefully packaged, managed, and tracked throughout the entire lifecycle. An unbreakable chain of custody is crucial to an investigation process; it’s proof that the digital evidence hasn’t been tampered with, mishandled, or altered.
Tracker Products has developed an evidence management software system that tracks the integrity of digital evidence throughout its entire lifecycle – from collection to disposition. With our full-spectrum evidence management solutions, you can be confident that your digital evidence will be tracked efficiently, effectively, and sustainably while in your custody. The evidence tracking software also protects sensitive information, collects data in real-time, and can be monitored from the convenience of your phone.
The integrity of digital evidence is critical to the legal process in criminal cases. But, effective evidence management software doesn’t just address the evidence itself. The system should provide easy access to those involved in each case: Evidence custodians, police officers, and other approved internal and external contacts. With Tracker Products, all stakeholders can see information about the evidence associated with a specific case from anywhere in the world.
When it comes to digital evidence, you can’t be too careful. That’s why Tracker Products has developed state-of-the-art evidence management software to protect and secure the digital data in your custody, while also helping to establish an unbreakable chain of custody. That way, digital evidence can be used to convict the guilty or prove innocence during the legal process.
The importance of Chain of Custody for Digital Evidence
Chain of custody is a system wherein evidence custodians oversee the intake, maintenance, and transfer of evidence to maintain its integrity. Chain of custody records are essential to the admissibility of digital evidence throughout the entire legal process.
By tracking the history of the digital evidence – which can include hardware, software, and data sources – you will have established an unimpeachable chain of custody that ensures the evidence can be admissible in a court of law. By controlling and tracking digital evidence from start to finish, the data will be protected from alteration, damage, and misrepresentation.
Evidence management software can save your evidence unit hours, if not days, spent combing through documents or logbooks looking for information about the location and history of your digital evidence. Not only can you protect the integrity of digital evidence when you implement evidence management software, but the system also allows you to search and find what you’re looking for quickly. Whether the evidence is needed for court, the lab, or being pulled for disposal, you’re just a couple clicks away from locating it.
Why is the Topic of Digital Evidence Important?
Every photo, video, and audio file used as digital evidence by your agency requires the same solid chain of custody as any other physical item you store in your property room. Today, most property and evidence rooms take in more digital evidence items than physical. In most criminal cases, digital evidence in multiple formats is a large part of the case. It’s not uncommon for squad car video, body cam recordings, crime scene photos, audio files, or mobile phone data to be collected for nearly every criminal case.
Accountability of digital evidence assets is critical for the effective prosecution of criminal cases. But digital evidence management doesn’t end with intake. When it comes to digital evidence, it’s imperative to provide easy access to those who need it while denying access to those who don’t. All stakeholders can access and view the files they need from the same screen they use to look at the rest of the evidence associated with the case.
Tracking digital evidence can be overwhelming for property rooms that are unprepared for the additional burdens of the digital age. In today’s environment, evidence tracking software is no longer considered to be a luxury item. Evidence management software is an essential tool for over-burdened, under-staffed evidence units nationwide.
Tracker Products can help ensure that your sensitive digital evidence is authenticated, protected, and tracked for its entire lifecycle.
Benefits of Using Tracker Products’ SAFE Software
- Your evidence – including digital data – is protected by an infallible chain of custody
- Digital evidence is safeguarded from alteration or misrepresentation
- The evidence management system reduces input errors and eliminates duplication
- Documentation can begin in the field from a cell phone or tablet
- Officers cannot submit evidence until all of the required fields are filled
- The system generates a detailed information label, including a barcode
- Automated workflow assigns tasks to individuals who need to take action
- Unalterable chain of custody. New data can be added, but nothing can be deleted
- Data is encrypted and protected on-site and/or in the cloud
- Reduced time and resources spent tracking, managing, and locating evidence
- Audits and Inventories are much easier and faster
- Chain of custody is more detailed and accurate
- Automatically sends case-specific contacts real-time updates
- Auto-disposition will increase your annual disposals and create more space
- Reduces liability
- Assurance that you are compliant with corporate policies and regulations
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Chain of Custody?
In criminal or legal proceedings, the chain of custody is the entire history of a piece of evidence. It is the detailed, chronological record of how the evidence – digital evidence or physical evidence – was retrieved, packaged, taken into custody, filed, transferred, assessed, and disposed of. The parties submitting, processing, and transferring the evidence must establish a secure chain of custody to verify its integrity. This process helps to ensure the evidence has not been tampered with, planted, or altered.
Why is the chain of custody critical?
Evidence management processes can make or break a court case. Important information, DNA, digital evidence, and other data can corroborate a suspect’s testimony or disprove a defendant’s argument; so the jury or other authorities can make a confident decision.
When it comes to law enforcement proceedings, even the slightest mistake can get evidence thrown out of court. If someone alters the information, takes too long to transfer it, mislabels it, or tampers with it in any way, vital evidence – including digital evidence – could be deemed inadmissible. That’s why establishing and maintaining a clear chain of custody is essential.
What are the best practices for digital evidence?
Strict protocols need to be established when dealing with evidence because digital evidence has become critical to legal processes. Now, government agencies routinely provide guidance on the best ways to preserve it. For example, never test or alter original digital evidence. A forensic evidence expert will copy the digital evidence and test that as part of the forensic analysis process.
You should also…
- Document Device Condition
- Review the Power Status
- Secure the Device
- Keep the Device Digitally Isolated
- Prepare for Long-Term Digital Evidence Storage
- Monitor Digital Evidence Transactions
- Ensure the Chain of Custody
- Periodically Audit Your Digital Evidence Management Program
Does Tracker Products’ software make documenting the chain of custody easier?
To ensure a chain of custody can be established, it’s essential that digital evidence and physical evidence are being tracked from the field, to trial, to evidence disposition.
Fields within Tracker’s software can be made “required,” thus eliminating the possibility of missing information. That way, Police officers can directly log evidence data such as case number, location, date/time, and suspect name, etc., into the evidence management software, allowing required information to be printed on a bar code label.
Once that’s complete, all the evidence custodians will need to do is verify the digital or physical evidence was packaged correctly, note any required lab work, double-check the data is complete and accurate, and assign the digital or physical evidence items to their new storage location.
After that, any time the evidence is moved, transferred, audited, or inventoried, the information will be documented. And all shareholders are updated in real-time.