Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Can Your Digital Images Withstand A Court Challenge?

This just in from the Digital Forensic Investigator news service: "... What most agencies fail to realize is that the lack of SOPs and a sound workflow means images submitted for court purposes may not survive if challenged by a knowledgeable attorney. These digital complexities have not yet been realized, so images taken by photographers will likely fail one of three very basic criteria:

  • The date and time setting in the camera is incorrect. 
  • The wrong lens focal length was used, resulting in an inaccurate depiction of the scene. 
  • Embedded information may indicate the image has been modified.
“These points were not an issue with film, but we do NOT live in a film world anymore. We now live in a digital age, and it changes everything we once believed about how photographs are treated in law enforcement,” says D. Eric Johnson, CEP (Certified Evidence Photographer instructor and retired First Lieutenant, Michigan State Police). A strong advocate of digital image integrity, education, and certification, he feels it is crucial for all who work in law enforcement to understand the following: “A ‘true and accurate representation’ is no longer the only qualifier—and is a court challenge waiting to happen. The only question is when and where ...”

... he goes on ...

So Ask Yourself: Can Your Images Withstand a Court Challenge?
"It is time for those taking crime and accident scene photographs to take a hard look at their procedures and consider the following facts:

  • The majority of cameras in the field have an incorrect date and time—check yours! 
  • Compact point-and-shoot cameras default to a wide angle setting, which will misrepresent the accuracy of the image—and most officers don’t even realize it. 
  • Digital single lens reflex cameras (DSLR) come with zoom lenses. There is only one position on that lens that will accurately represent the image—and most officers don’t know it. 
  • When images are downloaded to a computer, the simple act of rotating an image in order to view it will indicate it was “modified.” Will your court accept a modified image? 
Any one of these issues will likely result in the images being disallowed if challenged—yet guaranteeing digital image integrity is not that difficult. Providing proper training, policies, and having at least one CEP in your agency is a small investment compared to losing just one important case in court."

Click here to read the whole article.


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