Digital Photos Pose Issues In The Courts
The limitations of and concerns related to digital cameras has resulted in many police departments taking a cautious approach to their use. The police department in Santa Clara, Calif., has refrained from distributing 30 digital cameras to officers until it develops an approach to ensure the evidentiary integrity of the original photos.
Concerns about law enforcement’s use of digital photography arose in in the murder trial of Victor Reyes last year: Police used More Hits’ digital enhancement technology to enhance a handprint found at the crime scene that officers were originally unable to use; the jury acquitted Reyes, which has encouraged defense lawyers in other cases to aggressively attack the use of digital enhancements.
Critics of digital photography cite that digital pictures are easier to manipulate, whether by error or intention, than traditional photography because they are comprised of bits of data. Police departments are reluctant to use digital photographs exclusively because of these concerns, in addition to the difficulty of storing clear images on a digital file.
Digital photographs also do not offer the same clarity as film photos when blown up as displays for the jury.
Supporters of the technology downplay these concerns and state that errors will not result in the misidentification of fingerprint evidence. In addition, More Hits developer Erik Berg notes that digital files enhance protection of photographic evidence by allowing departments to lock down files, limit who sees them, record who accesses files and for how long, and record whether or not the images have been manipulated since they were taken.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Associated Press (02/07/04); Bergstein, Brian.