Virtual Velocity 2021 kicked off on August 4th. Using the Filo event platform, all attendees are able to join interactive rooms to learn from experts and network with other business owners. There is a new session each Wednesday in August starting at 2pm EDT. For those not able to join us, we wanted to provide a brief summary of what each of our guest presenters had to say. Week 3’s topic was Digital Evidence Management (DEM), and we were joined by Peter Hagood, Esq., established attorney and digital evidence enthusiast.
It can oftentimes seem that new innovations are only beneficial for a specific job function or title. Due to this belief, some innovations are “reserved” for one or two areas of work, preventing them from reaching their full potential. Such is the case with Digital Evidence Management, a new technology that is changing the justice system dramatically. Most people associate evidence with law enforcement, but you’d be surprised by how many justice personnel rely on exhibits to do their job.
A Bit About Peter
Last week, we were joined by Peter Hagood, Esq. for a discussion on DEM. Peter is an established attorney who deals largely with civil cases. He has several decades of experience under his belt and understands how crucial evidence is to his role. Our discussion with Peter centered around how Digital Evidence Management can benefit attorneys, DAs, and other seminal roles within the court system.
Peter Hagood, Esq. is, as mentioned, a civil attorney. He’s dealt with a variety of cases including real estate, community association law, personal injury, contract disputes, construction violations, and more. With over 25 years of hands-on experience, Peter was able to provide attendees with valuable insights into his daily life that involve some level of evidence management. He has a personal connection to the problems DEM aims to solve, and he’s seen exhibits in all formats across industries. Peter is a member of the Florida Bar, the US District Court for the Middle District of Florida, the Orange County Bar Association, the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, the American Trial Lawyers Association, and the Personal Injury Protection Steering Committees for both Orange and Seminole County.
How Do Attorneys Interact With Evidence?
According to Peter, attorneys handle exhibits on nearly a daily basis. In fact, when we first brought up the topic at hand, Peter’s first remark was “Attorneys are the ones who will benefit tremendously.” Scott Bade, CEO and Visionary at ImageSoft asked Peter to explain a day in his life in terms of evidence management. Without hesitation, Peter stated, “It’s one of the most problematic things to do.” Afterall, the role of an attorney is to prove their case in favor of their client. In order to accomplish that, they need to build a solid case based on evidentiary files. Building that portfolio is much more tedious than you might envision.
When the process of discovery begins, the number of documents and files can be staggering. Complex cases often involve enormous files and evidence of various media types. Not only are attorneys combing through hundreds of pages of text, but they also must navigate multimedia files and find a way to organize them. We’ve all seen the crime shows that pan across box after box of files as lawyers hunt for the smoking gun. As chance would have it, that’s not too far from the truth. Peter recalled several cases in which he needed one or two extra staff members with him solely to carry in and sort through 10+ boxes of evidence. As you would imagine, this much material can cause major delays in court proceedings.
What Problems Does DEM Solve For Attorneys?
When asked to elaborate on why a Digital Evidence Management system would be life-changing for attorneys, Peter had several answers. DEM is designed to house all exhibits under one secure “roof.” By moving to a virtual interface, attorneys are able to take advantage of new developments.
- Easy upload: Files can be uploaded in just minutes from anywhere. DEM supports audio and video files, images, scanned or digital documents, zip files, large assets, cell phone dumps, and more. With a few clicks, exhibits of all formats can be stored in one place.
- Straightforward organization: Once uploaded, exhibits can be searched by name, file type, date, etc. You can also store assets in groups of related items for effortless recall later.
- File normalization: Peter expressed that this was one of the most promising features of Digital Evidence Management. Evidence comes from many sources for each case, and file types can range greatly. Many security cameras for instance create proprietary files that cannot be played by typical video players. If you upload these unique formats into ImageSoft’s DEM solution, they are converted immediately into file types that can be played on nearly any device and played back in court.
- Accessibility: Peter’s other feature of choice was accessibility. In the traditional way of managing evidence, the physical copy of the video or audio files live in one place and must be “checked out” by parties. If you were opposing Peter on a case, only one of you would be able to access that specific exhibit at a time. With DEM, multiple parties can view the same piece of evidence at one time without any interference. The system even creates an automatic audit trail to preserve the chain of custody. Peter can be anywhere with access to the internet and jump into an exhibit even if you’re already in the document. You can refer back to an exhibit as many times as you need to without delaying the proceedings.
- Validating Files: For attorneys, preserving evidence is crucial. There have been cases in which a photo or video is altered slightly, resulting in an incorrect sentence/judgment. Peter discussed a personal example involving a security video showing a gas pump that was later tampered with. His client was accused of the crime. The security video was admitted to the court, but Peter’s team discovered that there were several frames cut out – 3 and a half minutes worth to be exact. The removed footage showed the defendant in the area but clearly nowhere near the gas pump. The other party had altered the video to bolster their own case. The ImageSoft DEM platform audits everything and will not permit edits other than redactions. Attorneys won’t have to spend hours with a film professional to find deleted frames.
Why The Sudden Demand For DEM?
So, why is Digital Evidence Management such a hot topic all of a sudden? Truthfully, there’s been a need for multimedia storage options for years. However, it was never a priority because of cost, resistance to change, lack of cataclysmic events, and other matters that were deemed more urgent at the time. As with nearly all innovations from the past two years, the pandemic played an important role in expediting the process. Courts shut down in-person proceedings and wouldn’t allow anyone inside the building. Justice must be served regardless, so things went digital. There was no good way for attorneys or other court personnel to get exhibits admitted digitally. It’s a new world within the justice system and one that will continue to evolve as more needs arise. When it became clear that emails and faxes were unreliable and unsecure, courts began to seek out better options. Now, as we attempt to return to “normalcy,” courts are hoping to keep some of the digital processes they’ve adopted. Digital Evidence Management encompasses solutions to dozens of problems, making it an obvious choice for courts, attorneys, clerks, judges, and more.
If you’re interested in learning more about DEM, take a look at Part 1 and Part 2 of the Carpe DM blog series in which we cover the types of evidence most commonly dealt with. Our product specialists also offer demos of our platform to demonstrate how simple it is to use. Read up on the solution and request a demo on our website.
For additional questions please contact our team.
Thank you to Peter Hagood, Esq. for an incredibly informational session, and thank you to everyone who came out to Virtual Velocity!