Making video evidence in court admissible: The dos and don'ts
Now that we’ve established the basic criteria, let’s go over the dos and don’ts of how to prepare and present video evidence in court:
DO: Prepare your material in advance
Never enter the courtroom unprepared! After doing all the hard work of CCTV investigation and video retrieval, you don’t want to get caught up in a technicality such as playback incompatibility or a similar issue. Instead, think ahead and imagine anything that could potentially thwart your plans and think ahead.
The solution is to do your due diligence and simulate a live playback session at least a couple of days prior to the big day, so you can get familiar with the technical side of things. You can also rehearse at home or at the office and go through the exact steps you’d take when the court hearing is scheduled. Be advised that footage obtained from CCTV cameras is often saved in weird formats only specific software can open, so don’t assume it will just play on any computer.
To be extra sure you’ve got every situation covered, see if your forensic video enhancement software allows you to export the video footage to other formats that are easy to open on most computers and smart devices without installing additional codecs or specialized software. If you’re looking for a recommendation, know that VIP 2.0 allows you to do exactly that thanks to its Ultra transcoder and player feature. In addition, it also comes with many other features as well!
DON’T: Compromise the chain of custody
To be admissible in court, it’s important that a piece of evidence adheres to the chain of custody standards. In essence, this provides proof of its integrity and it’s imperative to document who was left in charge of looking after it at any given time. Otherwise, its credibility could come under question.
In fact, a chain of custody should be established both visually as well as digitally. A skilled digital video forensic analyst will extract data from the source device and make copies without altering the original file. Still, it’s important to document everyone who has ever come into contact with the evidence.
DO: Present original audio and video recordings
If at all possible, present original footage to the court, otherwise it can be misrepresented. Even something as seemingly innocent as digital compression can jeopardize the authenticity of the video. The objective is to make an accurate reconstruction of the events. A forensic expert needs to make sure that the footage is legitimate and authentic.
Even so, there are cases where forensic video enhancement must be used for the sake of clarification. However, bear in mind that these are risky waters and only an industry-grade all-encompassing video forensic software such as VIP 2.0 is suitable to avoid jeopardizing the authenticity of the footage (and potentially the entire case).
In other words, you need a comprehensive all-in-one digital forensic solution capable of handling complex tasks such as video recovery, retrieval, enhancement, analysis – all under one roof. This way, you won’t have to worry about compromising the integrity of the recording.
DON’T: Forget to bring the playback gear with you
Many modern courtrooms are equipped with computers, speakers, and other multimedia devices these days, but when the outcome of the case depends on it, you never want to leave things to chance. Even if they do have the IT gear, you could find out it’s outdated and thus unsuitable for presenting the evidence with the level of detail you need. Or, it could break down in the time of need.
At the very least, bring a laptop with you and a giant set of speakers. Maybe a projector if it’s important for everyone to zoom in on the details. You could also get in touch with the court’s IT staff and ask them what is available on-site. But even so, technical hiccups do happen, often at unprecedented times, so it never hurts to have a backup.
Modern projectors easily fit into the palm of your hand, so carrying one around is not that big a deal.
DO: Label the copies accordingly
Remember how we advised you to bring the original footage with you? While the point still stands, don’t assume that your work ends there. Since you never know who’s going to ask for a copy, make sure to have enough of them available to present on-demand.
Also, don’t forget to label them accordingly. Study up on the exact requirements in your local area and make sure the sticker contains the correct information. One issue you could encounter when trying to do this is that you find out the sticker has larger dimensions than the medium you’re trying to mark (e.g. a flash drive). In this case, the solution is to find a transparent plastic bag that’s big enough for you to fit the sticker on and place the storage medium inside.
Storage media comes in different shapes and sizes. If it’s too tiny to place a label on, place it inside a transparent plastic bag and put the sticker on top.
For a Step-by-Step guide on Presenting Video Evidence in court in an admissible form, we seriously recommend you to check out another article from us that has covered systematical instructions to follow.