Arizona Computer Crime Investigation: Electronic Evidence

As technology advances, electronic evidence is no longer solely used in cases of Arizona internet crime. Increasingly, electronic evidence such as e-mail, chat logs, and Word documents are being used in cases ranging from fraud to murder. If you have been arrested in Phoenix, information from your computer or cell phone could end up being used in court, even if the charges are not computer-related.

What is electronic evidence?

"Electronic evidence" can be defined as any evidence that is stored or sent in a digital format that can be used by a party in a court case. Examples include:
  • Address books
  • Calendars
  • Chat logs
  • E-mail
  • Encrypted, hidden, password-protected, and potentially misnamed files
  • Internet bookmarks, cookies, and history
  • Spreadsheets
  • Image files
  • Text documents
  • Database files
  • Configuration files
  • System files and logs
  • Voice mail
  • Backup tapes
  • Disks, CDs, and thumb drives

The problem is that electronic evidence can be very fragile, and the court will carefully scrutinize any digital evidence that was handled improperly, damaged, or destroyed. In fact, electronic evidence is often thrown out during trials because it was obtained without authorization or otherwise mishandled. Additionally, many companies do not yet have policies and procedures in place to handle digital evidence, and they may have mishandled it long before the police investigate.

How is electronic evidence handled at the crime scene?

Generally, when authorities investigate and find potential digital evidence, they will:
  1. Physically secure the items, such as computers and external hard drives;
  2. Take pictures of the room and the systems;
  3. In the case of an item (such as a computer) that is already on, take note of onscreen items;
  4. Remove the plug from the electrical source;
  5. Take the system apart and document all components;
  6. Copy evidence to sterile media, if necessary.

If you have been accused of a crime in Arizona and believe that your computer may be used as electronic evidence, call a qualified Maricopa County criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible at 1-888-929-5292. We want to help you understand your rights and prepare for your trial. We also are offering a free legal book for our web visitors: Arizona Criminal Law - What You Must Know.