Electronic Crime Scene Investigation: A Guide for First Responders, Second Edition

Published April 14, 2008


Section 4 — Is Your Agency Prepared to Handle Digital Evidence?

Every agency should identify personnel—before they are needed—who have advanced skills, training, experience, and qualifications in handling electronic devices and digital evidence. These experts should be available for situations that exceed the technical expertise of the first responder or agency. This preparation and use is similar to the provisions in place for biohazard and critical incident responses. It is recommended that protocols for how to handle electronic crime scenes and digital evidence be developed in compliance with agency policies and prevailing Federal, State, and local laws and regulations. In particular, under the Privacy Protection Act of 1980, with certain exceptions, law enforcement is prohibited from seizing material from a person who has a legal right to disseminate it to the public. For example, seizure of first amendment material such as drafts of newsletters or Web pages may violate the Privacy Protection Act of 1980.

This guide was developed to assist law enforcement and other first responders when they encounter electronic crime scenes. These guidelines will help first responders—

  • Ensure that officer safety and the safety of others remain the highest priority.
  • Recognize the investigative value of digital evidence.
  • Assess available resources.
  • Identify the equipment and supplies that should be taken to electronic crime scenes.
  • Assess the crime scene and the digital evidence present.
  • Designate the assignments, roles, and responsibilities of personnel involved in the investigation.
Date Created: April 9, 2008