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Csi Essay

By | August 2006
Page 1 of 10
When prosecutors present evidence to a court, they must be ready to show that the thing they offer is the same thing the police officers, crime scene investigators, and agents seized. When that evidence is not distinctive but fungible (whether little bags of cocaine, bullet shell casings, or electronic data), the "process or system" which authenticates the item is a hand-to-hand chain of accountability. Although courts generally have allowed any witness with knowledge to authenticate a photograph without requiring the photographer to testify, that may not suffice for digital photos. Indeed, judges may now demand that the proponent of a digital picture be ready to establish a complete chain of custody--from the photographer to the person who produced the printout for trial. Even so, the printout itself may be a distinctive item when it bears the authenticator's initials, or some other recognizable mark. If the photographer takes a picture, and then immediately prints and initials the image that becomes an exhibit, the chain of custody is just that simple. But if the exhibit was made by another person or at a later time, the proponent should be ready to show where the data has been stored and how it was protected from alteration. Technology is rapidly changing every aspect of the criminal justice system as computers make possible the streamlining of many procedures, shortening their time span and increasing their accuracy. Techniques used in the collection, processing and storage of evidence benefit from these recent developments. Digital imaging, once used primarily for fingerprint comparisons, now is being used effectively in an increasing variety of evidence procedures, including analysis of altered documents, recording crime scenes and traffic crash sites, documenting domestic violence cases and creating video mug shot systems. However, as the use of digital cameras and digital imaging increases as a powerful crime-fighting tool so do the...

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