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Digital Evidence: Its True Value

NCJ Number
Date Published
National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center
This paper discusses the sources and value of digital evidence.
Digital media that could contain valuable forensic evidence include computers, laptops, flash drives, external storage devices, digital cameras, game units, and cellular phones. Digital evidence can provide material directly related to an offense, such as digital images of the crime itself or the possession of digital images that are illegal, such as child pornography. Digital evidence may also show intent to commit a crime (mens rea) or predmeditation in committing a criminal act. This can be determined from the suspect's Internet searches for information on materials or procedures that were involved in the charged crime. Another possible use of digital evidence is in supporting or refuting witness, victim, or suspect statements; for example, a suspect in a homicide case denied knowledge of the firearm used to commit the crime. An examination of his cellular phone, however, showed deleted images that proved he was lying. Digital evidence can also expand an investigation by revealing new crimes or suspects; for example, an identity theft investigation that included searches of digital media revealed that the suspect was part of a network that was sharing, selling, and buying identity data. An often overlooked use of digital evidence is "data mining,"which involves exporting information from multiple digital devices and importing the data into an analytical software package that can diagram and visualize a criminal enterprise or a timeline of events. A listing of three related readings
Date Created: September 17, 2009