Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $348,052)
The importance of digital forensics and digital evidence (DE) is rapidly growing with the adoption of technology
by criminals to commit crimes and for law enforcement (LE) investigating crimes. Because of this rapid growth, the criminal justice system has struggled to keep pace and the evidence base for DE best practices among LEs and crime laboratories remains limited. This study aims to understand the specific investigative, testing, and coordination needs of LE and crime laboratory practitioners and to produce practical knowledge on the uses and value of DE, including increasing investigative intelligence and probative value.
This study will be accomplished in three phases. Phase 1 will consist of a paired survey with a convenience sample of 67 crime laboratories (representing laboratories in 31 states and the District of Columbia) and up to 201 Law Enforcement agencies. The surveys will inform our understanding of DE caseload, resource needs, and DE submission, management, and analysis practices within and across jurisdictions. Results will yield a taxonomy of DE approaches by LE and crime laboratories to establish a foundational knowledge base. Phase 2 will build on the survey findings by selecting six jurisdictions using caseload measures that show high and low DE processing rates, in addition to other criteria (e.g., presence of evidence liaisons). The in-depth qualitative study will involve interviewing DE crime laboratory supervisors and the LE investigators to gain a deeper understanding of their processes, procedures, communication, and coordination between the agencies (24 total interviews). Phase 3 will combine the knowledge gained from the Phase 1 and 2 study components to develop an evidence-based brief for crime laboratories and LE agencies that shows promising DE case investigation practices. Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF