For many people accused of computer-related crimes, and even for many criminal defense attorneys, the evidentiary issues around computer-related crimes seem mysterious and often difficult to sort. However, computer and technology cases involve similar evidentiary issues as any other type of case. Admittedly, some of the details can become complicated, but the fundamental issues are the same.
How was the evidence gathered?
Like most of the cases I have handled over the years, computer crimes and other criminal cases often hinge on how the police conducted the investigation, the arrest and the search – how they gathered evidence. There are strict rules limiting what the police can do. If any police action violates your constitutional rights in any way, the evidence gathered as part of that police action will be inadmissible.
So, if the police conducted an illegal warrantless search of your computer, or illegally seized your computer under false pretenses, these actions could render the evidence obtained inadmissible. Or they could have conducted an overly broad search, a delayed search, or even one outside their jurisdiction. There are a variety of ways a seasoned defense lawyer can successfully challenge law enforcement searches that can lead to the inadmissibility of evidence. And without evidence, the prosecuting attorney cannot convict you.
Was the evidence compromised?
One issue slightly unique to computer and technology cases involves the chain of custody of the technological evidence. In some cases, if the evidence has moved through numerous hands, and especially if any of the people handling the evidence compromised it at all, it could destroy the prosecutor’s case.
It is also possible to attack the study of the computer evidence once it has been collected. This attack can include:
- The credibility of the person studying the computer evidence obtained (the analyst)
- The validity or effectiveness of the technology used to study the evidence, whether it is up to date and properly maintained
- The maintenance and upkeep of the technology used to study the evidence
In many cases, some significant problems can be uncovered regarding the handling and custody of the evidence.
If you are facing some kind of computer crime charge, the most important thing you can do is work with an attorney who has successfully handled this type of case before. I have successfully defended numerous clients against computer related crimes by attacking the police action in obtaining evidence, the handling of the evidence or the credibility of the ones studying the technological evidence.
Contact Darryl A. Goldberg to discuss your case.