The Justice System is extremely complex, and a lot happens behind the scenes that those outside the industry don’t fully understand. One of the areas commonly misunderstood is evidence. There are six types or categories of evidence that are most commonly seen in Court. Those types are real/physical, documentary, demonstrative, testimonial, circumstantial, and digital. It’s important to note that there is some overlap between various categories, meaning a single exhibit can be classified in multiple ways. Thanks to some innovation paired with secure and reliable technology, Vault, ImageSoft’s Digital Evidence Management system goes beyond the call of duty to aid in the storage and management of all six types of evidence, not just “true” digital evidence.
“True” Digital Evidence
Before we get into the other types, let’s cover the most obvious – “true” digital evidence and how Vault can handle it. We call it “true” digital evidence because as you’ll see, anything can be digital these days. However, “true” digital evidence is and always has been digital in nature. This would include things like text messages, social media accounts, emails, information on SIM cards, etc. Basically, anything that has always existed on a computer, phone, or hard drive is the traditional example of digital evidence. This has grown exponentially in recent years as more processes become high-tech and include some element of digital documentation. This is a type of evidence expected to continue to boom, and Courts need to ensure they have a way to manage it as it comes in.
Vault is literally designed to handle digital formats of evidence files. As you then expect, managing “true” digital evidence is a breeze. Vault allows users to upload files from nearly any device. This includes some of the trickier files like large files, zip files, and data exports. In some cases, all the data from a suspect or victim’s phone or computer must be seized as evidence. Rather than keeping the physical device, Vault allows you to export all content and store it in one convenient place. Other Digital Evidence Management tools do not have the capacity to store full exports, so we made it a priority in Vault.
The most well-known of the six types of evidence is probably real or physical evidence. This is typically anything that is irrefutable and tangible. If there is something physically in the room with you, it is hard to argue against it. People tend to believe what they see, so physical evidence is crucial in most criminal cases. Without physical evidence, there is a lot of room for reasonable doubt, meaning you could lose your case. We’ve all heard “no body, no conviction” in murder cases, and while occasionally not the case, it is much easier to convict someone when there is physical, tangible proof sitting in front of the jury in one form or another. Some of the most common examples are:
- Positive DNA samples
- Fibers from carpets or clothing
- A weapon
- Footprints or tire tracks
- Bullet casings
- Soil/plant specimens
What many people don’t realize is that Vault can assist with the management of physical evidence. While the platform obviously cannot store the actual knife, article of clothing, or physical specimens, it can store virtual versions of them. For example, any physical article can be photographed or videotaped. For discovery and case building purposes, this digital form is more than enough to work with. The physical object can stay safely locked away until it is needed in-person. In many cases, detailed photographs can be used in place of the actual article, especially for any hazardous materials, extremely large items, or things that are generally not wanted in the courtroom. Vault is a single location to store all digital documentation of physical evidence for easy access for all parties. Vault also comes in handy because evidence ID numbers can be recorded digitally for organization, search, and storage purposes.
As the name might suggest, documentary evidence deals with documents that can be
used in proceedings. The Justice System is notorious for using quite a bit of paper in daily goings on, so this document-based evidence can really clutter up boxes, filing cabinets, desks, and storage lockers. There are many documents that are commonly admitted such as insurance claims, ransom notes, calendars, contact books, journal entries, etc. As with physical evidence, managing so many documents can get disorganized very quickly. The other big challenge with documentary evidence is that only one party can view them at a time. If there’s only one document, it can’t be in two places at once. In some cases, documents can be photocopied, but it’s best to avoid having multiple versions of the sensitive information circulating.
Vault is the more secure way to share and review documentary evidence. By simply scanning documents into a digital format, they can be uploaded into Vault and accessible 24/7 on the database. Top-notch encryption and security measures help protect the sensitive data contained in each document while simultaneously making them more accessible to all parties whenever needed. All interactions with Vault exhibits are carefully tracked with an automatic audit trail, so you have a complete view of who has visited the document and when.
Demonstrative evidence is possibly the most forgotten of the six types of evidence. It is not used in every case, but when it is, it speaks volumes and can solidify a decision from the jury. Demonstrative evidence is any exhibit that demonstrates how something happened or is believed to have happened. Demonstrative evidence is crafted by the legal team in an attempt to prove their case. So, if you want to show that the defendant did not act in self-defense, a demonstration can be created by a professional that shows how the angle of impact and blood splatter prove the victim was attacked from behind. The most common types of demonstrative exhibits include forensic animations, blood splatter analysis, ballistics testing, and recreations of events.
Vault makes showing demonstrative evidence easier than ever. Most tend to be finalized in the form of video, presentations, or images, which we already know Vault can handle. The legal team can upload the demonstration and it will be stored securely within the Vault platform. From there, they can be streamed or displayed from a laptop or computer during the trial. Rather than fumble with a DVD or other display format, everything will be nicely packaged in Vault to help you stay organized and efficient.
Testimonial evidence is one of the most complex of the six types of evidence Testimonies from witnesses, victims, and the suspect themselves can be inexplicably valuable to a case. The jury wants to hear from those that saw or experienced the crime, know the involved parties, or offer expertise in relevant areas of study. While witness testimonies are typically presented during a trial, that is not always the case. If a witness feels unsafe or is unable to attend, they may submit a video testimony. There are also audio recordings, bodycam videos of confessions, and interrogation room tapes that all fall under this category.
As we already know, Vault was designed to manage video and audio recordings. It can also work with digital documents in the case of written statements. So long as the video or audio recording is not in a proprietary format, Vault can normalize it and make it streamable. Vault can manage all the most popular video/audio formats including MP3, MP4, .MOV, .WAV, and more. Unfortunately, some video software companies use their own format that we cannot normalize at this time. However, footage used in the testimonial evidence category are rarely in proprietary formats, meaning you should have no trouble making it work on the platform.
Circumstantial is one of the most polarizing of the six types of evidence. Why? Well, to put it simply, circumstantial evidence has no factual backing. If there is no direct link to a crime, it is up to the legal teams to collect evidence they feel is relevant and form a case that connects all circumstantial evidence to a final outcome. This type of evidence can cast reasonable doubt on a case and is typically considered more heavily when in conjunction with direct and other types of evidence.
You may have already guessed that Vault can assist with circumstantial evidence, just as it has all the others thus far. If we go through the following list of common examples of circumstantial evidence, we can see just how handy Vault is once again.
- Footage of a person in the area – Video files
- Cell phone records/tracking – Scanned or emailed documents
- A recent argument or disagreement – Texts, audio recordings, voice mail
- Owning a weapon – Proof of ownership photos, videos, or documents
- Being seen with the victim – CCTV footage, security cam footage, and witness testimony
- Past relationship history – Screenshots, cell phone records, ancestry websites, social media
- Any physical item that is believed to be involved – Photos, videos, social media posts
As you can see, just about any admissible exhibit can be converted to a digital or virtual format, uploaded to Vault, and used in court. Rather than attempting to store the six types of evidence separately, courts can house them all in Vault for a centralized database. There’s no need to cart in boxes upon boxes of documents, DVDs, VHS tapes, or anything similar. Except for some physical evidence that the legal team might want to have on hand, the rest of the evidence is on a single platform and ready to go. Vault can help manage and store evidence from all six categories so that court proceedings go smoothly and efficiently.
To learn more about Vault, visit www.demvault.com.