Does your force know the ins and outs of collecting their audio and video recorded evidence? Does your equipment enable you to get those recordings into the hands of all parties quickly? Do you ever deal with inadmissible evidence because of the quality of your recordings from your current recording solution? In order to ensure that your evidence is admissible, you want not only the right principles in gathering that information, but the right equipment as well.
One article found in Expert Pages, the leading online director of Expert Witnesses, titled Sound Recordings as Evidence, explains the basic process that courts use to evaluate the admissibility of evidence.
This process, which evolved from the United States v. McMillan case, has been used for decades and involves the following seven components—these principles not only speak to the case that must be made for admissibility but the importance of the equipment used in recording evidence along the way. As you read through each, note whether your current equipment complies with these requirements for recorded evidence.
- Recording Device Capability: The very first requirement is an easy one. The device that you record on must prove that the device itself is functioning and capable of recording sounds.
- Operator Competency: Another requirement is that the operator must know how to operate the device that is recording. Equipment like the iRecord digital video and audio recording system has one touch technology, which enables intuitive operation and facilitates efficiency in the recording process.
- Recordings are Authentic and Correct: According to the Sound Recording as Evidence article, “authentication is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is ‘what its proponent claims, as decreed in Federal Rule of Evidence 901.’ The standard for correctness of a recording is whether ‘the possibility of misidentification and adulteration [is] eliminated, not absolutely, but as a matter of reasonable probability.’”
- Preservation of Recordings: No Additions, Deletions, or Changes: If any signs of tampering arise during an overview of the recording (for example, gaps), a forensic expert will be consulted. In the case when no signs of tampering arise, the proper chain of custody documentation is sufficient.
- Chain of custody: It’s typically this fifth step which creates a problem in admissibility. The proponent for an audio recording’s admittance must assure the court that the item in hand being given as evidence is substantially the same as its original through chain of custody. To prove chain of custody, the following advice from an article How to Keep Your Digital Chain of Custody advises the following:
To prove chain of custody, you’ll need a form that details how the evidence was handled every step of the way. This form should answer these:
- What is the evidence?
- How did you get it?
- When was it collected?
- Who has handled it?
- Why did that person handle it?
- Where has it traveled, and where was it ultimately stored?
- Identification of the speakers: Federal Rule of Evidence 901(b)(5) states that: “Voice identification is adequate if made by a witness having sufficient familiarity with the speaker’s voice.” The rule essentially states that familiarity may be obtained previous to or after listening to the recorded voice. This standard for voice identification has been upheld in cases such as United States v. Rizzo, United States v. Bonanno, and United States v. Hughes).
- Recorded Conversations with Consent: At least one participant in the conversation must provide consent for recording. By providing this, the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the conversation is electronically monitored during an investigation.
If you’re not 100% sure that your evidence will pass the admissibility test, don’t go to court. You’ll lengthen the time it takes to close your cases, not to mention threaten the delivery of justice through not being able to provide all seven requirements in the process. Don’t let your equipment delay you another day. Check out iRecord and how our system satisfies all of these.