With Americans devoting 11 hours a day to digital media, it is not surprising that electronic evidence has become a major component of almost all types of litigation. Whether it’s proving intellectual property infringement or using cell phone data to prove the user’s alibi, electronically stored information (ESI) can be invaluable to your case. However, if you do not have a clear chain of custody, that ESI could be deemed inadmissible.
The court requires proof that the electronic evidence you present at trial is the same as the ESI that was originally collected. Unfortunately, ESI is easily altered or deleted, and it can be difficult to document these changes. This leaves the evidence vulnerable to legal challenges and you to possible sanctions for spoliation.
There are 3 key questions that will have to be answered to establish ESI as authentic and acceptable to the court. In each of these areas, using a forensic IT expert for your eDiscovery will ensure your chain of custody is kept clear and secure:
- How was the ESI collected? – Screenshots and printouts are not sufficient proof that a document is authentic. Metadata is some of the most important ESI that is collected: it records who created, accessed or altered a document and when. By choosing a forensic IT expert, you can be sure that proper procedures are followed and that all ESI is successfully captured and recorded.
- How was the ESI preserved? – Along with its importance, metadata is also the most easily changed ESI. Simply opening a document overwrites the record of who accessed the document last. That is why one of the first steps a forensic IT expert will take is to make a forensic copy of the device(s) being examined. A forensic copy is used for eDiscovery inspection while the original is preserved exactly as it was collected. With a forensic copy can defend yourself against spoliation charges and demonstrate the ESI’s authenticity.
- Who collected the electronic evidence? – In an attempt to cut costs, law firms often handle eDiscovery themselves. However, if the ESI comes under legal challenge, you will be forced to defend your processes. If you are not up-to-date on the latest rules and procedures, you may find yourself facing sanctions. Third-party forensic IT experts are well versed in eDiscovery protocols and have the specialized hardware and software necessary to collect and preserve ESI.
Precise’s Forensic IT Experts Keep Your ESI Safe
Establishing a clear chain of custody is crucial for successful eDiscovery and litigation. Don’t risk costly mistakes by tackling this process yourself. Call the experts at Precise (866-277-3247) and put our forensic IT experience to work for you.