Establishing a chain of custody for audio/video evidence is the first step in any audio or video forensic investigation. This includes audio/video forensic enhancement and audio/video authentication. Where did the evidence come from? Who created the recording that is being entered into evidence?
What is a Chain of Custody?
A chain of custody is the documentation of who did what to evidence and when was it done. A chain of custody includes people, dates, places, activity, and the recording of that information to establish the chain of custody. What has been done since the evidence was created?
The chain of custody refers to both digital and analog audio/video evidence. It is important to the legal community because it adds credibility to the evidence. However, it is common for law enforcement and others in the legal community to overlook establishing a chain for audio/video evidence. It’s not because of neglect, but more often due to lack of training or understanding the importance of the process.
Unfortunately, audio/video recordings are sometimes entered into evidence without documenting the evidence recovery process. When this is the case, if both parties agree that the evidence is acceptable and tamper-free, the audio/video recording is established as the ‘original’ and the chain of custody begins there.
The audio/video chain of custody then moves on to the evidence recovery process. This is the process of forensically removing the original audio/video recording from the recorder that created it. Based on our experience at Primeau Forensics, once both parties in a criminal or civil litigation agree on an original, they request each side’s forensic expert to establish a protocol for recovering the evidence. This protocol is written step by step instructions created by one of the experts, then negotiated and or modified and revised until the protocol is established.
Call an Expert
Over the last 37 years as the lead expert at Primeau Forensics, Ed Primeau has worked with evidence recordings from client lawyers who received recordings from the police. Whenever evidence is not retrieved personally, the police reports, depositions, and other court documents that accompany the evidence must be carefully read to understand how it was acquired. This paper trail must establish a timeline; a chronological listing that accounts for the recovery, custody, transfer, and storage of the evidence because the lack of an established chain of custody can easily overturn a conviction on appeal.
Call us with any questions about audio/video evidence, enhancement, authentication, or establishing a chain of custody. We are here to help you understand this form of evidence and its role in court.