Nothing Builds a Timeline for Attorneys on a Case like Digital Evidence
Timelines built using digital evidence can be an attorney’s best friend in cases ranging from lawsuits against mega-corporations, like the one that has now been filed in Arizona over an ignition switch recall by GM, to putting a child predator behind bars. In light of Arizona now being the first state of 48 currently investigating the recall to formalize their position by filing a 3 billion dollar lawsuit against GM, the head of Global Digital Forensics talks about the hidden advantages that can be gained from a thorough computer forensics analysis and the invaluable timelines that can be derived from the process in complex cases like these.
From civil matters to criminal investigations, digital evidence can be one of the most powerful tools attorneys and the courts can rely on to get to the truth. The timelines afforded by ESI (Electronically Stored Information) can shed a brand new light and perspective on a legal matter, which can be essential when wealth, reputation, freedom and even life itself can be on the line.
Just look this story about GM’s ignition switch recall, as reported by CBS news in this article posted on November 10th, which alleges new emails have been found that put the manufacturer’s knowledge of the defect two months before notifying the federal government. Over two and a half million cars have been recalled and 32 people may have lost their lives as a direct result, according to CBS’s numbers. And on Thursday, November 20th, The New York Times reported that the attorney general of Arizona said on Wednesday that the state had filed the suit in Maricopa County Superior Court against General Motors (State of Arizona v. General Motors LLC, the Superior Court of the State of Arizona, County of Maricopa, No. CV2014-014090.), claiming that the automaker had defrauded the state’s consumers of an estimated $3 billion. Reuters also reported on the same day that Arizona became the first state to throw their hat in the litigation ring out of the 48 states currently investigating the matter and deciding on whether or not to follow suit. “You can bet the existence and validity of those emails are going to be investigated by the states and weigh heavily in their decisions, prior knowledge would be a big deal in a case like this,” says Joe Caruso, founder and head of Global Digital Forensics (GDF), a recognized national leader in computer forensics and electronic discovery (eDiscovery) services for over twenty years. “Our experience in assisting with numerous class action suits also shows that in today’s world, regardless of what many people tend to believe, emails never quite die, even the ones a user tried to delete. The trick is having the knowledge and expertise to find them and put them into counsel’s hands, and that’s where computer forensics experts like us come in.”
Based in New York, but with a national presence, Caruso and his team have had plenty of experience in helping attorneys turn the tide of litigation. “One of the most satisfying things about being a computer forensics specialist is we don’t have to stress ourselves into a moral quandary over guilt or innocence, our job revolves completely around the facts the data presents. We don’t offer legal opinions, we don’t bend the truth, we just help counsel acquire, sift through, analyze and present electronic evidence from the myriad of digital devices and systems in play every day, from PCs and laptops, to smartphones, tablets and even on-board vehicle computers. We help them build strong and coherent timelines of events, we look for and verify, or invalidate, the behavior or actions in question, and we make sure every step and action we take is documented and done in a way that evidence remains pristine and admissible in court, in case that's where the matter ends up,” says Caruso, “but that’s not to say it’s not gratifying when we get to put a smoking gun into a client’s hands, as we have done countless times as qualified experts in jurisdictions across the country, and watching the truth come to light.”
Beware: There is no hiding from the digital world
“In our experience, most people simply have no idea how many digital footprints they leave behind every day,” says Caruso. “For example, take a criminal case we assisted on that had to do with a predator and child pornography. Of course the defendant was swearing up and down that he never took any of the pictures in question, didn’t know the victims and had never been anywhere near the alleged scene of the crime on the days in question. But thanks to digital footprints, like geo-location tracking data equipped on his smartphone, and a plethora of EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) data the particular device he used tracked, like the make of the device, the time the images were taken and even the GPS coordinates at the time, and other metadata (data about data, like MAC times - modified, accessed and created date and time stamps) we were able to help prosecutors build a substantial timeline of events and actions that simply could not be disputed, not only on the days in question, but the days preceding and following the incidents as well. Needless to say, that was game, set, match, and it was indeed one of those times it felt good to help counsel present what actually happened and get justice served. But just like all the good things that can come from leveraging digital evidence to get to the truth, there is also another side to the coin. Computer forensics is a precise science, and there are many pitfalls which can render any evidence found completely useless. If anyone without the knowledge, experience, tools and expertise tries to “play CSI” when it comes to digital evidence, chances are it will be tainted, inadmissible and just plain useless, no matter how incriminating or exonerating it may have been if seasoned professionals were on the job. So if you are involved in any kind of litigation, don’t make a huge mistake to save a few pennies, because in the end it could very well cost you the successful resolution to your case – truth be damned.”
Experts in every sense of the word
*Global Digital Forensics is a recognized leader providing cutting edge solutions in the fields of computer forensics, eDiscovery, cyber security and emergency incident response. GDF is strategically positioned with resources across the country and the globe to react quickly and efficiently with a staff of highly qualified and experienced specialists. Many Fortune 500 companies have trusted GDF with their most sensitive situations. GDF has the technology, skill and experience to ensure any computer forensics tasks and/or eDiscovery needs are handled in a highly cost effective manner, while always ensuring exceptional, defensible results. To speak with a GDF evidence specialist about a plan to suit your unique needs, call 1-800-868-8189. The call and the initial consultation are free. For more information, visit our computer forensics page.