Imagine Being on Trial. With Exonerating Evidence Trapped on Your Phone.
Public defenders lack access to gadgets and software that could keep their clients out of jail.
This tech gap has two basic forms. First, law enforcement agencies can use warrants and court orders to compel companies to turn over emails, photos and other communications, but defense lawyers have no such power. And second, the government has access to forensic technology that makes digital investigations easier. Over the last two decades, the machines and software designed to extract data from computers and smartphones were primarily made for and sold to law enforcement.
To successfully defend its clients, the Legal Aid Society, New York City’s largest public defender office, realized in 2013 that it needed to buy the same tools the police had: forensic devices and software from companies including Cellebrite, Magnet Forensics and Guidance Software. Not only does the expensive technology unearth digital evidence that is otherwise hard or impossible to find, it captures it in a format that can hold up in court, as opposed to evidence that could have been tampered with or forged.