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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Moisant

The Digital Footprint: Real-Life Scenarios Where Digital Evidence Can Be Incriminating


can a computer be evidence
Digital incriminating evidence
Incriminating Digital Evidence

In the digital era, our online actions and digital traces can often become critical pieces of evidence in criminal cases. As a criminal lawyer, I have witnessed firsthand how digital evidence can turn the tide in legal proceedings. This blog post will explore real-life scenarios where digital evidence has played a decisive role, highlighting the importance of being cautious in our digital interactions.


** The scenarios below do not reflect client cases from Moisant Law Firm these are real life scenarios that could happen. If you find yourself facing criminal charges it is important to first contact a criminal lawyer.


Scenario 1: Social Media Posts Contradicting Alibis

In a burglary case, an individual claimed they were at a friend's house at the time of the crime. However, the investigation revealed conflicting social media evidence:

  1. Tagged Photos: The suspect was tagged in photos on social media, timestamped and located near the crime scene, coinciding with the time of the burglary.

  2. Check-Ins: The suspect had checked in at a location close to the crime scene shortly before the burglary was reported.

  3. Geo-Tagged Posts: Posts made by the suspect were geo-tagged, indicating their presence in the area near the burglary.

  4. Comments and Replies: In the comments on one post, the suspect confirmed they were still at a party near the crime scene, aligning with the burglary's timeline.

This digital evidence directly contradicted the suspect's alibi, placing them near the crime scene at the relevant time. It highlighted the need for careful consideration of digital footprints in criminal cases and the importance of a thorough defense strategy that accounts for such evidence.


Scenario 2: Text Messages Revealing Intent

In a drug trafficking case, an individual's involvement was brought to light through text messages. Law enforcement, with a legally obtained warrant, searched the suspect's phone and discovered incriminating evidence:

  1. Detailed Drug Sale Conversations: The texts contained explicit details about drug types, prices, quantities, and transaction logistics, clearly outlining the suspect's role in drug sales.

  2. Meeting Arrangements: The messages included arrangements for meetings with buyers, aligning with times and locations of known drug deals under police surveillance.

  3. Drug Trafficking Jargon: The use of specific jargon and code words in the texts was consistent with language typically associated with drug trafficking.

  4. Network Connections: The texts linked the suspect to other individuals in the drug trafficking network, indicating involvement in a larger criminal operation.

These text messages presented a significant challenge for the defense, as they offered clear and direct evidence of the suspect's involvement in drug trafficking. The defense strategy in such a scenario would need to carefully address the authenticity, relevance, and interpretation of these digital communications.

Scenario 3: Location Data from Smart Devices

The use of location data from smart devices in criminal investigations has become increasingly common, especially in cases like hit-and-run incidents. Let's delve into a scenario where such data played a crucial role.


GPS Data from the Suspect's Car

The suspect's vehicle was equipped with a GPS device, which is not uncommon in modern vehicles. Law enforcement obtained the records from this device, revealing the following:

  1. Location Tracking: The GPS data showed the car's location history, including its presence at the scene of the hit-and-run at the exact time it occurred.

  2. Route History: The data also provided the route taken by the car on the day of the incident, which led directly to and from the scene of the accident.

  3. Time Stamps: The timestamps associated with the GPS data aligned precisely with the timeline of the hit-and-run, further implicating the suspect.

Smartphone and Fitness Tracker Data

In addition to the GPS data from the car, investigators also examined data from the suspect's smartphone and fitness tracker:

  1. Smartphone Location Services: Many smartphones continuously track location data. In this case, the suspect's phone location data corroborated the GPS data from the car.

  2. Fitness Tracker Movements: The suspect's fitness tracker, which also had GPS capabilities, showed movements that matched the timeline and location of the incident.


Scenario 4: Incriminating Search History

Internet search history often provides a window into a person's intentions and can be a critical piece of evidence in criminal investigations, particularly in cases involving premeditated crimes like arson. Let's explore a scenario where a suspect's search history played a pivotal role.


The Case Overview

In this scenario, an individual was under investigation for suspected arson. The fire in question had caused significant property damage, and initial investigations suggested that it was deliberately set. The suspect in question had a known grievance against the owner of the property, making them a person of interest.


Discovery of Incriminating Search History

As part of the investigation, law enforcement obtained a warrant to search the suspect's digital devices, including their computer. This search revealed a series of incriminating searches:

  1. Searches on Fire Starting Techniques: The suspect's search history included queries on how to start fires, focusing on methods that would leave minimal evidence and be difficult to trace.

  2. Timing and Planning: There were searches for the best time to set a building on fire, considering factors like minimal occupancy and emergency response times.

  3. Research on Fire Accelerants: The history also showed research on various accelerants and their effectiveness, along with ways to obtain them discreetly.

  4. Avoiding Detection: The suspect had also looked up information on how to avoid detection and elude arson investigation techniques.


The Role of a Criminal Lawyer

In each of these scenarios, the role of a experienced criminal lawyer becomes crucial. Understanding the nuances of digital evidence, including how it can be legally obtained and used in court, is a critical aspect of modern criminal defense. A knowledgeable lawyer can challenge the admissibility of digital evidence, question its authenticity, or provide context that may mitigate its impact.


Conclusion

The examples above illustrate just how easily digital activities can become part of a criminal investigation. Incriminating digital evidence can have a huge impact on your case. In areas where law enforcement is increasingly tech-savvy, it's essential to be mindful of your digital footprint. If you find yourself in a situation where digital evidence is playing a role, consulting with an experienced criminal lawyer is a wise step. Remember, what you do online can have real-world consequences, and understanding these implications is key to protecting your rights.



For more insights and legal assistance, feel free to contact Moisant Law Firm, your trusted criminal lawyer, 225-803-0312 or email us.


Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified attorney for specific legal guidance.


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