Digital Evidence: Important or Relevant?

In our current times, so many things are digital.  We no longer rely solely on hard paper copies, photographs, or even signatures.  This certainly includes digital evidence relating to your case.  Digital evidence is evidence that is stored or transmitted in a binary form.  It may be obtained through multiple sources including computers, digital cameras, video recordings, or cell phones.  It may also include video, audio, or photograph enhancements.  In some cases, digital evidence may allow the court to view or obtain evidence that would not be available without digital assistance.
Digital evidence is used in both criminal and civil cases.  Depending on the size and severity of the case, a digital forensics expert may be called in.  However, the costs of this may be prohibitive.  Generally speaking, before a court considers digital evidence they will determine the relevancy of the evidence, how the evidence was obtained, the authenticity of the evidence, whether or not is it hearsay, and whether a copy is acceptable or the original is required.  Evidence obtained illegally will not be admitted into court.
Increased use of instant messaging, Facebook messages, ATM receipts, digital photos, Word processing documents, and spreadsheets are becoming more and more utilized in a court setting.  Electronic records and emails are also highly utilized in both criminal and civil cases.
The first rule of digital evidence is preservation.  There are four stages during the initial collection process of digital evidence.  These stages are identification, collection, acquisition, and preservation.  Digital evidence is admissible in court if you are able to verify how the evidence was obtained, prove that it has not been altered, and show the results are valid, peer-reviewed, and authenticated.  The three main sources of digital evidence are internet-based, obtained from an individual computer, or collected from a mobile device.  Many times items containing digital evidence are seized and collected by police, lawyers or officials.
The collection of digital evidence, and the standards that need to be adhered to, vary from criminal to civil cases.  In criminal cases, the standard is typically higher than in civil cases.  Criminal cases often require obtaining a search warrant to secure digital evidence.  In civil cases, digital evidence is often obtained through negotiation or by a Subpoena.  Items are also not typically seized, but inspected.  In either instance, you must not alter, delete, modify or try to hide digital evidence.  Doing so may result in jail times, fines, or harsher punishment or retribution.

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