For some reason, a large majority of crime shows, police reality shows, and true crime films tend to only showcase the police officers handling the evidence of a crime scene. Of course, Law Enforcement does deal with evidence typically before anyone else, but the path from crime scene to trial is nowhere near as cut and dry as the directors like to make it seem. In reality, dozens of people can interact with or handle evidence during the justice process, each having their own important role to play. Today, we want to welcome you to our newest series where we will discuss how products like Vault (ImageSoft’s Digital Evidence Management platform) affect various job functions and roles.
Before we begin, we want to refresh your memory as to what Vault is. Vault is a secure and centralized digital platform that allows Justice System personnel to upload, organize, normalize, store, manage, share, and stream multimedia evidence files. Vault is a multi-faceted system than has elements to benefit any job role it comes across. Let’s take a look at how Vault is helping the Justice System as a whole.
One job role that we’ve found to really benefit from Vault is Prosecution. An attorney’s job is extremely complex and involved, particularly during the discovery stage. Prosecutors must collect and submit hundreds of evidentiary files prior to building their case. Thanks to the rapid increase in technology, evidence almost always includes some type of digital file. Vault works for Prosecutors by allowing them to upload, organize, and store files in a centralized location. Rather than carrying around boxes stuffed with physical documents, DVDs, printed screenshots, etc., Prosecutors can access their entire library of files from anywhere with a connection to the internet. Vault allows multiple authorized parties to view the same folders and files for fast, accessible, and convenient work. Once evidence has been accepted as exhibits, Prosecutors can go about constructing their case. They can organize and reorganize as much as possible to create a streamlined story, they can add in-platform notes and comments, and they can even redact video clips if they requested that option within Vault.
Uploading and storing for discovery is a breeze, but Vault’s benefits don’t stop there. Prosecutors can also utilize the platform for streaming. Prior to Digital Evidence Management systems like Vault, a trial could require a small army of playback devices like CD plays, cassette players, VCRs, laptops, and more. Vault automatically normalizes all types of files into a format that can be played back without ever leaving the dashboard. All they need in the courtroom is a laptop and they can display any stored exhibit. It’s important to mention that because no downloading or exporting is required, frames are not dropped from videos. The quality is exactly how the original is and everything stays securely in a single location.
Clerks and Court Admins can also enjoy Vault in their daily lives. Clerks and Admins will occasionally have to input evidence which they can do easily from nearly any device. More importantly, Clerks and Admins are usually the parties responsible for managing the comings and goings of evidence. If both sides or multiple parties from the same side need to see an exhibit, Clerks and Admins are the ones who track when the exhibit leaves and when it comes back in. When dealing with large cases with hundreds of exhibits, you can imagine it being stressful and easy to let something slip through the cracks. Add that on top of the fact that Clerks and Admins manage multiple cases at a time and you’re looking at quite a bit of chaos. Vault streamlines the process by eliminating the middleman. Once a document is uploaded and sorted, any authorized party can access it at any time, from anywhere. There’s no need to manually track exhibits because Vault creates automatic audit trails for every file within it. Because exhibits can be accessed digitally, there’s no way for them to be lost, misplaced, or delayed.
Judges enjoy Vault because it makes life in the courtroom infinitely easier from the bench. Again, there’s no need to waste everyone’s time while playback devices are brought in, connected, tested, and used. There’s also no fumbling with paper documents that can quickly become overwhelming. Vault can be integrated existing applications Judges utilize, helping them keep all key information in one place.
In addition, Vault works for Judges by allowing them to review all submitted evidence during discovery. Judges must determine whether a file is admissible in court, whether it needs to be redacted, and if it is relevant to the case. Vault allows Judges to log in and approve or reject all submissions in real-time. Statuses are automatically updated for the submitting party to see and edit their case accordingly. Judges can handle the more tedious parts of the job from their office, home, or vacation spot to avoid slowing down the Attorneys or running into issues during the trial. By putting access to exhibits in the palm of Judges’ hands, Vault works to avoid delays by offering a more convenient and user-friendly experience than traditional all-physical-evidence trials.
Everything stays far more organized, helping the proceedings move efficiently.
Recently, we’ve noticed that the Insurance industry is beginning to fully buy into the value that Vault has to offer. We often overlook insurance claims as “trials,” but they very much are. In today’s world, many insurance cases rely heavily on digital evidence. For example, when trying to determine who is at fault for a vehicle accident, Insurance companies might be able to use dashcam footage, public videos, or security camera footage from nearby homes and businesses. Video is very cut and dry, making it nearly impossible to dispute the case. Vault’s guarantee to not drop frames keeps it transparent that no edits were made and that the video is valid.
Security footage or CCTV are a few of the most popular evidence files for Insurance claims. Photos also play an important role by showing the event in question rather than describing it with words. Insurance claims can be very costly, so having the tools available for best utilizing all multimedia evidence is vital. Footage, audio, photos, and messages eliminate the “he said, she said” debate by showing the actual event as it happened. Being able to manage these files digitally can drastically reduce the time Insurance agencies spend in court and build confidence in the authenticity of all exhibits.
Information Technology Heads
It should come as no surprise that IT professionals within the Justice System can benefit from the Vault system. After all, their job is centered around finding ways to use technology to help the courts become more efficient. Vault gives IT professionals the power to leverage some of the top security on the market. As data breaches and other security threats become more advanced and frequent, knowing you have a reliable solution can make all the difference. ImageSoft works with the Microsoft Azure Government Cloud to ensure that all products, including Vault, are as protected as possible. Vault comes with built-in encryption, customizable user permissions, and secure database storage so that you can be confident that all sensitive information remains in your care.
As we’ve already discussed, Vault can be integrated with systems that are already in place. Rather than uproot processes that are already working for IT, Vault can come in and enhance said processes to make them smoother, faster, and even more efficient. That said, Vault can replace some outdated “processes” that consistently cause problems for IT. For example, converting files to different formats to make them playable is a thing of the past (in nearly all cases). Sharing is also easier, and there are very few reasons why exhibits would ever have to leave the platform once uploaded – a security guru’s dream.
Lastly, we want to mention Law Enforcement because no one can deny how critical of a role they play in crimes and trials. With the traditional manual process, Law Enforcement had to take pictures of the entire crime scene as well as collect all physical articles. Notes were taken down, witness statements were collected, and many documents were printed out and stored in files. With Vault, all photos, audio, and video can be uploaded with just a few clicks for a paperless visual evidence file. Documents can be scanned and brought into the platform for safekeeping and easy access. If any notes are taken about particular exhibits, police can log these notes within Vault to avoid using sticky notes or filling the margins of important documents. Of course, there will always be some physical evidence (particularly in criminal cases) such as weapons, clothing, fibers, etc. We encourage Law Enforcement to photograph these items as well for quick looking over, but some things will require physical testing and analysis. For everything that does end up in Vault, police (or any other party) can customize metadata to make things easily traceable. Gone are the days of sifting through dozens of files because we welcome Vault and its ability to quickly search by description, exhibit name, exhibit number, and more.
As you can see, Vault is a Digital Evidence Tool for the people – all the people within the Justice Community. Vault saves time and hassle for anyone who regularly interacts with evidence, and when combined with other apps, it can improve communication between departments. If you’re interested in learning more about Vault and why it’s so revolutionary, please visit www.DEMVault.com.