What Is Electronic Evidence?

K.C. Bruning

Electronic evidence, also know as digital evidence, is any kind of material produced or stored by electronic means that is submitted to a court of law for use in a trial. This can include equipment such as computers, external drives, and any files stored on these devices. It can also include email, word processing documents, digital photos, and audio files. Electronic evidence may be collected from databases, browsing history, and other information stored on an electronic device.

Surveillance video and audio and ATM transaction reports may be used as electronic evidence.
Surveillance video and audio and ATM transaction reports may be used as electronic evidence.

Several public sources of information that can also be used as electronic evidence. These include surveillance video and audio and ATM transaction reports. It can also be collected from access reports for doors or elevators that use electronic key cards.

Each court must decide if electronic evidence is relevant to a particular case.
Each court must decide if electronic evidence is relevant to a particular case.

There are several common characteristics of electronic evidence which differentiate it from items traditionally submitted to the court for trial. One significant trait is that it is usually easy to copy, which means that it can also be difficult to completely destroy. It can also be easy to modify, which can be problematic when attempting to determine if the evidence is accurate. This type of evidence also tends to be much more voluminous and complex than more traditional evidence.

Officers or other authorized professional must follow specific procedures when seizing electronic evidence. Details can vary, depending on whether there is a search warrant. In general, it first must be determined whether there is reason to believe that the electronic device or storage system was used to commit a crime. Once this has been established, photos are typically taken of the unit before it is touched. Regardless of whether it is on or off, the contents of the device are usually not searched on site.

The next step depends upon whether or not the device is switched on. If it is off, the unit will typically be removed from its power source and packed for safe transport. When the unit is found with the power on, photos are usually taken of the screen image. If it appears that the machine is destroying data, a common procedure is to immediately disconnect the power source.

Upon receiving electronic evidence, the court must determine if it is acceptable and relevant to the case. This includes obtaining proof that the evidence is legitimate and has been gathered legally. If another crime besides that under investigation is discovered in seized evidence, an additional search warrant is usually required before it can be admitted by the court.

Quadcopters may be used for video surveillance to collect evidence.
Quadcopters may be used for video surveillance to collect evidence.

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