Technology and Criminal Defense Issues
It was not that long ago that prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys were far more limited in what resources they could use to present their cases to juries. Whereas lawyers were once limited to calling witnesses and submitting certain types of evidence, the rapid changes in technology have given legal professionals several different options to potentially bolster their cases.
When a person is accused of a criminal offense in North Carolina, it can be very beneficial to work with an attorney who has a full understanding of all of the technological tools available to them in order to have the best chance of possibly getting criminal charges reduced or dismissed. The Coolidge Law Firm not only understands how to take advantage of these types of technology, but also how to identify when investigators use technology incorrectly.
Attorney in Raleigh, NC Discusses Technology and Criminal Defense Issues
If you were arrested anywhere in the Research Triangle for any kind of criminal offense, it is in your best interest to exercise your right to remain silent until you have obtained legal counsel. The Coolidge Law Firm aggressively defends clients in Cary, Knightdale, Apex, Holly Springs, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, and many surrounding areas in Wake County.
David Coolidge is an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Raleigh who also represents students at local colleges like Duke University, Shaw University, North Carolina State University, and Meredith College. Call (919) 239-8448 today to have our attorney review your case and discuss all of your legal options during a free initial consultation.
Overview of Technology and Criminal Defense Issues in North Carolina
- How is DNA analyzed?
- What is digital forensics?
- How does cell tower triangulation work?
- What is an event data recorder?
- Can social media accounts be used against me?
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a molecule that is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. While fingerprints were once the “smoking gun” in many criminal cases, DNA evidence is commonly referred to as “genetic fingerprinting.”
While DNA evidence has been used to convict many alleged offenders, it has also been used by many criminal defense lawyers to overturn convictions or obtain acquittals. Common methods of DNA testing include:
- Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Analysis — Technicians take small amounts of DNA from biological evidence and make millions of copies of it, a process referred to as PCR amplification. The amplification creates enough DNA to allow a laboratory analyst to generate a DNA profile and analyze degraded biological material.
- Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) — A DNA sample is digested with a restriction endonuclease enzyme, creating DNA fragments of different lengths. The samples are then compared by the lengths of the strands. One of the early techniques for analyzing DNA, RFLP is not widely used now because it requires large samples.
- Short Tandem Repeat (STR) Analysis — DNA is amplified and individual areas of the sample are examined. In most criminal cases, 13 regions are analyzed and used to establish profiles.
- Y-Chromosome Analysis — Also known as Y-STR analysis, this technique is used only to identify males by examining genetic markers on the Y chromosome.
Even when a prosecutor claims to have DNA evidence against an alleged offender, false positives are not entirely uncommon. DNA degradation, sample contamination, improper storage, and bad analysis can all produce false positives.
The term digital forensics involves material found in digital devices. Digital forensics is divided into five branches:
- Computer Forensics — Involves analyzing computers, embedded systems, and static memory.
- Mobile Device Forensics — Recovery of evidence or data (usually calls or other communication) from a mobile device.
- Network Forensics —Involves the monitoring and analysis of local and wide area network (WAN) or internet computer network traffic.
- Forensic Data Analysis — Involves the analysis of large volumes of data, usually relating to financial crimes.
- Database Forensics — Similar to computer forensics, but typically focuses on structured data.
Although prosecutors may use any of the digital forensics techniques listed above to obtain evidence against an alleged offender, such evidence may be inadmissible in court if it was obtained unlawfully (illegal search and seizure).
Very similar to Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking, prosecutors use cell tower triangulation to connect alleged offenders with being present at the identified crime scene. Cell tower triangulation, however, may also be used to verify an alleged offender’s alibi.
Cell tower triangulation is a useful tool, but it is not entirely without flaws. Prosecutors may be unable to use this evidence if the investigators failed to use proper procedures or if the investigators performed the analysis in an area with weak signal strength.
An EDR is essentially the automobile version of the black box commonly associated with airplanes. EDRs are useful because they record information related to motor vehicle accidents.
EDR analysis must be performed in circumstances consistent with industry or commonly accepted standards. Even when EDR data seems incriminating against an alleged offender, the data still tells only a part of the larger story and an experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to call attention to factors not evident in the EDR data.
Few people think of the consequences of the statements they make or the things that they share on websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, or Instagram. It is critical for everyone to understand that social media posts can be used as evidence in a trial or as a catalyst to begin a criminal investigation.
Deleting social media incriminating posts rarely solves an alleged offender’s problems, as deleted posts may be recovered through digital forensics. While many people feel compelled to share intimate details about their personal lives through social media websites, you will not jeopardize your freedom by remaining silent. It is always better to play it safe with these types of websites after you have been accused of any kind of criminal offense.
The Coolidge Law Firm | Raleigh Criminal Defense Lawyer
Do you have concerns about technological evidence against you in a criminal case in the Research Triangle? You should contact Coolidge Law Firm as soon as possible. Our firm represents individuals in communities all over Wake County, such as Morrisville, Wendell, Zebulon, Raleigh, Wake Forest, Rolesville, and many others.
Raleigh criminal defense attorney David Coolidge also helps students at such institutions of higher learning as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), William Peace University, and Wake Technical Community College (Wake Tech). You can have our lawyer provide a complete evaluation of your case when you call (919) 239-8448 or submit an online contact form to receive a free, confidential consultation.