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Digital evidence can be challenged at trial

Digital evidence isn't exactly new to the courtroom but its use is becoming far more common than it has been in previous decades -- a fact that is changing the nature of both criminal investigations and criminal defense.

Text messages, chat room transcripts, emails and even global positioning satellite (GPS) records are being used more often to provide evidence that leads to criminal arrests and convictions.

For example, several Texas residents were recently arrested for their roles in a heroin sale that caused the death of a young woman back in 2016. Much of the evidence used to connect the dealers, who are charged with varying offenses related to conspiracy, drug trafficking and drug distribution, came through the study of text conversations used to coordinate meetings and set up the drug deals.

However, while that digital evidence may prove to be a police detective's best friend while he or she is on the hunt for a suspected criminal, it isn't always the most reliable helper for the prosecution once it is introduced into evidence in court. A strong defense attorney who understands the failings of digital evidence can often use expert witnesses to point out the weak points in the evidence and create reasonable doubt.

The ever-changing and rapidly advancing technology used by computers and cellphones (which, these days, are essentially micro-computers that users can carry with them) can make it difficult for a backlogged police department with limited equipment and overworked examiners to extract the information that they need to successfully prosecute a case. A mistake made in extracting digital information from an internet browser can end up helping the defense by casting doubt on all the digital evidence presented.

In addition, laws are still developing regarding the appropriate seizure and use of digital information. Law enforcement isn't free to intrude on a person's private digital world willy-nilly, simply because they have access to an accused criminal's cellphone.

If you've been charged in a criminal case, contact a defense attorney as soon as possible in order to protect your rights. A strong defense may include challenging the evidence against you at every turn -- from the legality of its collection to the way that it is interpreted by investigators.

Source:, "Digital Evidence and the U.S. Criminal Justice System," Sean E Goodison, Robert C. Davis, Brian A. Jackson, accessed June 02, 2017

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