The New York Times recently published an interesting piece on public defenders and their access to digital evidence and forensic expertise. The article highlighted how “the deck often is stacked against defendants” when it comes to technology. One of the organizations profiled in the write-up was the New York Legal Aid Society, a large Public Defender’s office in New York City. In order to better defend their clients, the Society built their own Digital Forensic Lab and equipped it with some industry standard devices and software from Cellebrite, Guidance software and Magnet Forensics. This was done at a cost of approximately $100,000, a price tag that is simply out of reach for most Public Defender offices. (Licensing fees will continue to accrue on a regular basis, believe us) To put that into perspective, the Manhattan district attorney’s office also recently built a forensics lab for around 10 million.
The information gained from performing digital forensic analysis can be invaluable for public defenders as they assist clients in assembling a defense. Having the opportunity to review the data from client or witness devices also allows them to better assess the strengths and weaknesses in a case. Without an independent forensic analysis, public defenders are often left to review reports provided by the government’s examiners but if there is a device of interest that was not analyzed by law enforcement or a data type that was not parsed by the government in many cases they are simply out of luck. The evidence might exist online or even on a mobile phone they can hold in their hand but they cannot access it without a forensic examination. At Sensei we often work with public defenders at the state and federal level and are cognizant of their financial constraints so we offer them a lower hourly rate.
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Digital Forensics/Cybersecurity/Information Technology