Video Enhancement Services for Fingerprint Recognition

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Video Enhancement Services for Fingerprint Images

Our palm and finger skin have a unique flow like pattern consisting of ridges and valleys. These ridges and valleys help increase friction thereby assisting us grasp objects. Also called as frictional ridges they help enhance the sensing of surfaced textures. This frictional ridge pattern is unique to every finger such that even identical twins can be differentiated on the basis of their fingerprints. As can be seen in the image below, the dark lines represent the friction ridges, while the white space represents the valleys. Fingerprint identification is based on the location of ridge ending and bifurcations along a ridge path.

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It was during the late 19th century that the scientific study of personal identification based on fingerprints received its due importance. Fingerprints are now one of the most widely used biometric format for person identification. Law enforcement agencies and forensic experts use fingerprints to identify criminals as criminals often tend to leave their fingerprints at crime scenes.

This article provides a brief summary of the history, standards and challenges faced in fingerprint recognition. It also explains the video enhancement services available and image enhancement techniques used for fingerprint analysis.

History and Standard Regulations for Fingerprint recognition

History:

Sir Francis Galton, Henry Faulds and Edward Henry are amongst the notable figures that helped establish the scientific basis for using fingerprints to recognize people. In late 1960’s with the advent of computers, a subset of Galton Points also called minutiae, helped expand the science of fingerprint identification. Recognizing its impact on forensic science, in 1969 FBI contracted National Bureau of Standards (NBS) now the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to automate the process of fingerprint matching. Later in 1975 FBI funded the development of a prototype fingerprint reader and classifier.

Over the course of next few years NIST further developed the study of fingerprints and developed the advanced M40 matching algorithm for narrowing the human search. By 1981, 5 Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS) had been deployed in USA. In 1999 major components of Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) were operational. By 2003 NIST developed accurate multiple tests under the Fingerprint Vendor Technology Evaluation (FpVTE) which helped evaluate the accuracy of fingerprint recognition systems.

Standards:

Consistent efforts resulted in various standards to standardize the content, meaning, and representation of fingerprint data interchange formats. Standards developed include the ANSI/INCITS 381-2004 Finger Image-Based Data Interchange Format, ANSI/INCITS 377-2004 Finger Pattern Based Interchange Format, ANSI-INCITS 378-2004 Finger Minutiae Format for Data Interchange, ISO/IEC 19794-2 Finger Minutiae Format for Data Interchange, ISO/IEC FCD 19794-3 Finger Pattern Based Interchange Format, and the ISO/IEC 19794-4 Finger Image Based Interchange Format.  ANSI NIST ITL 1-2000 Data Format is a standard for the Interchange of Fingerprint, Facial, & Scar Mark & Tattoo (SMT) Information. Electronic Fingerprint Transmission Specification (v7.1) and Electronic Biometric Transmission Specification (v1.0) are specific implementations of ANSI NIST ITL 1-2000 used by the FBI and DoD. Other standards also associated with ANSI NIST ITL 1-2000 are the FBI’s Wavelet Scalar Quantization (WSQ) and Join Photographic Experts Group 2000 (JPEG2000) which are both used for the compression of fingerprint images.

Challenges faced in fingerprint recognition

Here we are discussing few problems associated with fingerprint recognition. Further research on these challenges can be studied under domains such as video enhancement, image processing, computer vision, statistical modeling, cryptography and sensor development.

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  1. Rounded shape of fingers, rolling and improper pressure on reading devices cause difficulty in capturing complete fingerprint on touch based sensors.
  2. Difficulty in capturing fingerprints on touch based sensors, caused due to dry, wet or dirty finger, cuts on fingers or finger flattening.
  3. Overlapping caused due to improper finger placement by user results in overlapping impressions.
  4. Altered, fake and latent fingerprints also results in challenges faced by forensic experts.
  5. Lack of interoperability due to difficulty in building a single finger recognition system which can be used by all.

 

Video Enhancement Services and techniques for Fingerprint image enhancement

Below are some video enhancement techniques used to enhance the quality of fingerprint images:

  1. Short Time Fourier Transform (STFT) Analysis is an image enhancement algorithm which requires STFT analysis and contextual filtering. As a result it also provides an energy map which is used to compute the angular coherence.
  2. Pyramid based filtering uses two symmetries to  model and extract the local structure in a fingerprint. These two symmetries are called parabolic and linear symmetry.
  3. Curved Gabor Filters are used to enhance curved structures in noisy images by locally adapting the shape to a direction of flow. Gabor filters play an essential role in the field of image and video enhancement.
  4. Histogram Equalization, Fast Fourier Transform and Image Binarization also involves a two stage process requiring minutiae extraction as the first step and minutiae matching the second. Minutiae extraction includes image enhancement, image segmentation and final extraction while minutiae matching includes minutiae alignment and match processes.alt=” Video Enhancement Services”
  5. Oriented Diffusion Filtering and Curved Gabor Filters is used to enhance low quality fingerprint images. After estimating the local orientation of ridge and valley flow the oriented diffusion filtering is performed  followed by locally adaptive contrast enhancement step.
  6. Discrete Fourier Transform (DFT) and Histogram Equalization uses a combination of Discrete Fourier Transform (DFT) and histogram equalization to reconstruct the information of the fingerprint image.
  7. Coherence Diffusion Filter and Gabor Filter uses a combination of spatial domain two dimensional Gabor filter and diffusion coherence filter.
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Using Face Recognition Methods for Forensic Video Analysis

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Facial recognition is often an essential aspect of forensic video analysis.

Facial Recognition for Forensic Video Analysis

Facial recognition experts are highly trained Forensic Video and Image analysts who specialize in the fields of human diversity, anthropology and forensic analysis. Even though we recognize faces every day, but to analyze and replicate this same behavior of a human brain through scientific procedures and then to testify in court that a suspect is a criminal, is not as easy as we might think. This requires the expertise of a facial recognition forensic analyst. They use techniques such as Morphological analysis, Anthropometric, Photographic Superimposition and 3D–3D comparison to recognize faces in a surveillance camera shoot.

With the growing use of video surveillance cameras, the need for facial recognition in forensic video analysis is also growing. There are cameras fitted almost everywhere, on roads, malls, parking lots, lobby, homes, offices, airports, entry and exit doors of every other building. Usage of facial recognition for forensic analysis dates back to the end of 19th century, when Alphonse Bertillon, a French police officer, first used anthropometry for the purpose of facial recognition. In literal terms anthropometry is the study of human body measurements especially on a comparative basis. However forensic anthropometry for the purpose of facial recognition, involves a careful comparison of morphological characteristics of some peculiar anatomical parts (such as eye, nose, mouth, and ear) of the head.

As explained above facial recognition is an essential and difficult aspect of forensic video analysis. What make it even more difficult are limitations such as disguises to hide identity and poor quality of surveillance camera footage. Though special forensic enhancement software are available that enable demultiplexing, frame averaging, duplication, video level adjustment, magnification, highlighting, and obscuring of multiple subjects and specific areas. But even post enhancement, a forensic specialist, preferably an expert in the fields of biology/anthropology/human-diversity, is required to recognize faces, especially when the original quality of surveillance videos or images is very low.

Face Recognition methods for Forensic video analysis

Forensic facial identification involves comparison of two or more faces to recognize the facial image in question and determine the true facial identity. Amongst the traditional approaches used for face recognition are 3 well known techniques. These are Morphological analysis, Anthropometric and Photographic Superimposition.

  1. Morphological Analysis – This is a very old approach of facial recognition. It involves comparison and identification based on individual features of a face. Several classifications of different forms of facial regions and types exist. These classifications aim at meticulously classifying different facial traits, such as, facial outline shapes, hairline shapes, mouth, nose, etc. Some classifications can consider up to 40 facial traits. They are designed to promote a consistent, systematic, and scientifically comparable evaluation of facial features as well as making individual variations and population differences emerge from a seemingly unremarkable visage. It can guide the expert in making a decision about the final match.
  2. Anthropometric approach – This approach is described as the quantification of physiological proportions between facial traits, dimensions, ratios and angles to measure specific characteristics of a face. It is generally used for facial comparison of similar face orientations. Even slight differences in orientation, facial expression, lighting conditions, camera distortions, camera positioning and aging can impact the end results and will require proper video enhancement. The method proposed by Alphonse Bertillon was based on anthropometric measurements. He developed a taxonomy, called as portrait parle or spoken portrait, which described the physiological features of the head, nose, forehead and ears. This combination of anthropometric measurements and the spoken portrait was called Bertillonage and was very soon adopted by judicial systems of that time. 
  3. Photographic Superimposition – This technique involves comparison of facial traits by superimposing them on each other. Forensic experts take pictures or videos of the suspect with closest possible head orientation of the criminal, and then compare facial characteristics through superimposition and numerical analysis of two images.  Favorable recording conditions are essential and this technique is usually impractical, especially if long time has elapsed between the occurrence of crime and the facial recognition or forensic analysis. 
  4. More modern approach to facial recognition techniques involves comparison in 2D or 3D structures. With technology and software advancements the shift is also towards automating the identification approaches. Forensic experts are using quantitative identification procedures like 2D-2D, 3D-2D and 3D-3D comparison techniques to identify the criminals. These are more reliable and accurate techniques.
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Forensic Audio Analysis and Weapon Recognition

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Forensic Audio Analysis and Weapon Recognition

Forensic Audio Analysis

Forensic Audio Analysis can be used to ID firearms

Modern technology makes it possible for an Audio Forensic Expert to be able to recognize a firearm, often by just listening to the sound of firing. Trained audio forensic experts recognize the different type of firearms, the different barrel lengths, types and weights of ammunition, that result in varying bullet speeds and totally different Sound Pressure Levels (SPL) or audio signals. In this post we will share insights to the Sound Pressure Levels (SPL) and Bullet Speed of highly used Revolvers (.357 Magnum and .38 Revolver), 9 mm Pistol and Rifles (.30-.60 Rifle and .223 Rifle) along with bullets like Winchester Silver Tip Hollow Point, Winchester Full Metal Jacket, Winchester Soft Point and Hollow point.

Revolvers

A Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum Revolver (Model 13) with a 3 inch barrel, when fires a Winchester Silver Tip Hollow Point bullet weighing 9.4 grams will result in a bullet speed of 362.4 meters per second and a Sound Pressure Level (SPL) of 155.4 decibels (when recorded at 1 meter and at an angle of 90 degrees). However when the same revolver fires a Remington Jacketed Hollow Point bullet weighing 8.1 grams results in a bullet speed of 427 meters per second and a SPL of 158.5 decibels. A Winchester Silver Tip Hollow Point bullet weighing 7.1 grams when fired with a .38 Smith & Wesson Revolver (Model 10) having a barrel of 2.5 inches, will result in a bullet speed of 269.7 meters per second and a SPL of 153 decibels. The same bullet when fired with 4.0 inches barrel will produce a bullet speed of 287.1 meters per second and a SPL of 151.4 decibels. A .38 Smith & Wesson revolver (Model 60) when fires a Winchester Silver Tip Hollow Point bullet weighing 7.1 grams, with a 2.5 inch barrel will result in a bullet speed of 250.2 meters per second and Sound Pressure Level of 155.4 decibels.

9mm Pistol

A Winchester Full Metal Jacket bullet weighing 7.5 grams, when fired with a 9mm pistol of Sig Sauer P-226 make and 4.5 inch barrel will result in a bullet speed of 333.8 meters per second and SPL of 153.7 decibels. The same bullet if fired with a 9mm pistol of Colt make and Model 2000, will have a bullet speed of 345 meters per second and SPL of 153.7 decibels. A Winchester Silver Tip Hollow Point bullet weighing 7.5 grams, when fired with a 9mm pistol of Sig Sauer P-226 make and 4.5 inch barrel will result in a bullet speed of 344.7 meters per second and SPL of 152.5 decibels. This same bullet when fired with a 9mm pistol of Colt make and Model 2000, will have a bullet speed of 357.5 meters per second and SPL of 153.1 decibels. A Winchester Full Metal Jacket bullet weighing 9.6 grams, when fired with a 9mm pistol of Sig Sauer P-226 make and 4.5 inch barrel will result in a bullet speed of 280.7 meters per second and SPL of 152.4 decibels. The same bullet but of weight 9.5 grams if fired with a 9mm pistol of Colt make and Model 2000, will have a bullet speed of 288.3 meters per second and SPL of 151.9

Rifles

When a Winchester Soft Point bullet weighing 8.1 grams is fired with a .30-06 Rifle of Winchester 70 make and barrel 22 inches, the result is bullet speed of 889.1 meters per second and 160.8 decibels of SPL. When the same rifle fires the same bullet having a weight of 10.7 grams the resulting bullet speed is 827.5 meters per second and 160.1 decibels SPL. The last firearm we have covered is a .223 Rifle of Colt M16A1 make having a barrel of 21 inches, when fires a Winchester Hollow point bullet weighing 4.1 grams, will result in a bullet speed of 803.8 meters per second and SPL of 156 decibels.Post forensic enhancement, when we use professional Forensic Audio Analysis skills and combine it with this type of accurate statistics we can decipher many insights like the type of bullet fired, the exact location of gunshot and the type of firearm used. These insights help us in solving many crimes and reconstructing crime scenes with high precision accuracy.

 

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Forensic Audio Enhancement of Gunshot Recordings

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Forensic Audio Enhancement

Forensic Audio Enhancement may be able to reconstruct crime scenes

Forensic Audio Enhancement of Gunshot Recordings

Gunshot audio recordings are like fingerprints. With special forensic enhancement it can provide essential insights to a crime scene. Forensic Gunshot Acoustics is the field of forensics that deals with forensic audio enhancement and analysis of gunshot recordings. Professional forensic experts may be able to reconstruct crime scenes and decipher critical turning points through Forensic Gunshot Acoustics. They use it to decipher the exact location of a gunshot or identify the gun used in firing. These insights can become critical turning points for any criminal proceeding involving a shooting. In the right circumstances Forensic experts can even point out the person who took the first shot in a gun battle and calculate with high precision the exact circumstances in which the shot was fired.

A simple gunshot is a result of complex procedure and produces many audio signals in the process. Initially a confined combustion of gunpowder is used to propel a bullet from the gun. When the bullet leaves the gun barrel, it produces a supersonic jet of gases from the muzzle which leads to a muzzle blast. This muzzle blast creates an acoustic shock wave leaving a highly directional sound. After this the gun itself may produce other mechanical sounds like completion of trigger and cocking mechanism, expulsion of the fired cartridge and replacement with a new cartridge. The other possible audio signals can be of the moving bullet itself and the bullet hitting the target.

There are a variety of factors that can influence the quality of gunshot recordings. Factors such as quality of microphone, angle and direction of the weapon at the time of shooting, environmental effects such as distance, obstacles and reflecting surfaces between the recording device and gunshot, can negatively affect the quality of recording. Other factors influencing the sound waves of a gunshot include effects of wind, temperature, humidity and surrounding objects. With professional Forensic Audio Enhancement we can improve the quality of gunshot recordings and provide valuable insights to the crime scene.

Forensic Audio Enhancement Techniques

Audio Forensic experts use a number of filters or processes to enhance the quality of forensic audio recordings. Depending on the type of disturbance or noise the appropriate filter is used. Here is a quick list :

  1. Sample Rate Correction is applied to digital audio recordings which are distorted while copying to a CD using incorrect sample rate conversions.
  2. Highpass filter is an analog filter used to reduce noise below a certain frequency, such as engine noise or rubbing of clothes against a microphone.
  3. Lowpass filters are used to reduce high frequency noise such as a hiss or wind noise.
  4. Notch filter is an analog filter used to reduce noise of specific frequencies such as constant humming.
  5. Comb and Multiple Notch filter is an analog filter used to reduce noise at multiple specific frequencies like irregular and multiple hums or tones.
  6. One Channel Adaptive filter is applied to reduce repetitive and predictable noise from machines, varying tones, reverberations and echoes.
  7. Two Channel Adaptive Filter is used to reduce repetitive and predictable noises from reference sources such as music or TV noise.
  8. Specific Inverse Filter reduces repetitive and predictable disturbances such as those from machines, hums and tones.
  9. Adaptive Spectral Inverse Filter is used to reduce noise from machines, tones, reverberations and echoes.
  10. Noise reducer filter is used to reduce difficult to predict noises such as clicks, pops or other random noises.
  11. Graphic Equalizer filter is used to improve speech intelligibility.
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Is it Lawful to Videotape the Police?

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Cpl. David Eric Casebolt restraining a 15-year-old girl outside a community pool in McKinney, Texas.

Cpl. David Eric Casebolt restraining a 15-year-old girl outside a community pool in McKinney, Texas.

Nearly 60% of all Americans own a smartphone. That means that almost two out of every three people you see are a potential journalist. In fact, a Pew Research Center report suggests that around 12% of all news stories come from average citizens who witness or record newsworthy events. Often, such newsworthy events include law enforcement. So when a citizen feels the need or desire to start recording, one may have to ask himself is it lawful to videotape the police? What’s more, will this video evidence be admissible in court?

Recordings of Police May Be Usable for Video Forensics

Throughout the United States, different courts have had different things to say on whether or not one may record the police. For instance, the Ninth Circuit Federal Court, in 1995, ruled, “there is a First Amendment right to film matters of public interest”. Are police doing their job considered a matter of “public interest”? In 2000, the Eleventh Circuit Court ruled there is, “a First Amendment right, subject to reasonable time, manner and place restrictions, to photograph or videotape police conduct.” The Eleventh Circuit’s ruling seems to be more specific while the Ninth’s is somewhat ambiguous. However, in 2010, the Third Circuit Court ruled that “the right to videotape police officers during traffic stops was not clearly established.”

The Eleventh Circuit Court’s ruling seems to be clear that videotaping police is protected by the First Amendment, yet the Third Circuit Court’s ruling suggests that recording police is not protected at all. So which is it? And to make the question even more difficult, many courts over the years have echoed the sentiment that the right to record police is not “clearly established”.

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In the state of California, the law is clear: one may record police conducting their duties in public provided that they (the police) are not obstructed or impeded from performing their duties. That being the case, any video created or obtained that was done so in this manner would be admissible in court. This, then, begs the question, would recordings made surreptitiously be admissible? In many cases, such a recording may be considered wiretapping (particularly if the recording includes audio), thus leaving the recorder susceptible to prosecution. None the less, the recording may be admissible, but at a price of potential civil or criminal prosecution against the recorder!

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Video Enhancement Services & Techniques used by Forensic Experts

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Recorded footage is often used as evidence in court. Videos and Imagery can be captured from a wide range of media recording devices, like Body Cameras, CCTVs, in car cameras, smartphones, camcorders, webcams and other similar devices. In addition there are surveillance cameras recording all our activities at ATM machines, airports, shopping malls and other public places such as roads and public transports. It is recorded footage from these devices that are often used in court investigations. They help in interpreting the intent of a crime and in pinpointing the actual criminals as well.

However, quality of the footage is of utmost important in such proceedings and can mark a turning point in criminal cases. Due to a wide range of reasons such as, abrupt weather conditions, bad lighting, limited camera ability, distance, angle or recording speed, a surveillance footage might be inferior in quality and cannot be used as evidence without proper forensic video enhancement.

Forensic video enhancement sample

Techniques of Video Enhancement – NCAVF uses only the best methods and advanced software which calculates the minutest detail and delivers best quality forensic video. This list is by no means exhaustive and mentions just 3 of the very popular Video Enhancement techniques used by Forensic Experts:

  1. Noise Reduction & Video Denoising – There are various factors like noise, blur, blocking and other compression factors, that occur at the time of video acquisition and negatively impact the quality of digital video sequence. Noise Reduction and Video Denoising is a complex process of removing noise from a video through image restoration mechanism of a degraded image. The process aims at reducing noise through a frame of images and between the frames as well. There are various complex methods used for Noise Reduction & Video Denoising.
  2. Tone Mapping – Tone mapping is used on low light videos by mapping a set of colors and approximating them with a high illuminated video.  This technique is applied on brightness level i.e. luminance. The main premise behind Tone Mapping is to match the brightness of an actual scene and reproduce that in any video or image. Tone mapping is used in the field of Forensics for digital video brightening.
  3. Histogram Equalization – Histogram Equalization is a contrast enhancement technique aimed at improving images and videos with low contrast due to insufficient light. Histogram plots grey level of pixel on a scale of 0(black) to 255(white). The main goal of Histogram Equalization is to uniformly distribute the pixel values by enhancing the grey component.

About NCAVF

NCAVF, the National Center for Audio and Video Forensics, is an advanced audio and video forensics company. It is a leader in video enhancement services and preparing media for evidence used in mediations, arbitrations, hearings and court. Their expertise is 3D recreations of crime scenes to video production, and from forensic video enhancement to testifying in court as an expert witness.

Mr. David Notowitz operates NCAVF. He is an Emmy award winning producer and multi-faceted video and audio forensic evidence expert. NCAVF is on the Panel of Expert Witnesses of Los Angeles County Superior Court, the Los Angeles Public Defender’s approved experts list, and on numerous public defender lists throughout California. Some of their largest clients are Target, Kroger, Stater Bros, State Farm, Home Depot, and McDonalds.

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Kelly Thomas Civil Trial Settles; Video Evidence and Audio Evidence Played a Central Role

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The picture on the left is Thomas circa 1997. The right circa 2009. These images offer interesting testimony into Thomas' decent into schizophrenia.

The picture on the left is Thomas circa 1997. The right circa 2009. These images offer interesting testimony into Thomas’ decent into schizophrenia.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, attorneys for the City of Fullerton reached a settlement with Ron Thomas, the father of Kelly Thomas, in his civil suit against the city of Fullerton and multiple police officers in the death of Kelly Thomas. The case settled for $4.9 Million, and the video evidence and audio evidence played a central role. This case has widely been known simply as the “Kelly Thomas” case.

The incident, which happened in July 2011, was captured by security video surveillance at a Fullerton bus depot where Thomas was allegedly trying door handles on cars. Audio of the incident was captured on numerous officers’ digital audio recorders (also known as DAR’s). Once video enhancement and audio enhancement techniques were utilized and the video evidence and audio evidence was synced together, an audio/visual narrative of the events that resulted in Thomas’ death were revealed to be much different than what the media often portrayed them to be.

NCAVF worked on the Kelly Thomas case both during the criminal and civil trials and spent countless hours reviewing, analyzing, and enhancing the video evidence and audio evidence for both cases. When the City of Fullerton was preparing for the civil trial, they knew that the forensic evidence was strongly on their side. After all, it was this evidence that caused a jury to return a not guilty verdict on murder and manslaughter charges after only 4 hours of deliberation. Civil charges have a lower level of proof, so a defense verdict was less sure in this case. However, in a press conference, Dana Fox, an attorney for the city of Fullerton, stated that he felt the jury selected for the civil trial was very favorable; perhaps implying that the jury would have favored the defense’s position.

As is often the case when a defendant chooses to settle a civil suit rather than go to trial, the decision to pay out $4.9 million to the plaintiff was not an admission of guilt; it was a pure financial decision. The City of Fullerton’s decision was based upon many factors, including the cost of mounting a 2 to 3 month trial, the cost of further bad public relations during trial, and the risk of trial sparking protests or riots with potential costs resulting from community unrest.

This decision brings to a close the criminal and civil litigations against the parties involved in Kelly Thomas’ death. What has still not been resolved are the administrative cases of the officers who were fired and are desiring to get their jobs back with the Fullerton Police Department. NCAVF will play a role in the use of the evidence for the administrative cases as well, as there is no doubt that the video evidence and audio evidence used in the criminal and civil trials will also be key in these administrative cases.

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Own a Smartphone, You’re Under Audio Surveillance

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Your Phone May Be Under Audio Surveillance

Your Phone May Be Under Audio Surveillance

Were the Founding Fathers concerned with US citizens being under audio surveillance? By late 1791, Congress had ratified the 4th Amendment, which, simply put, states that US citizens are protected from the government against unreasonable searches and seizures, and further that no warrants shall be issued without probable cause. But when the founding fathers wrote this amendment, did they have in mind audio surveillance or smartphones? Do you recall the 2008 film Eagle Eye, and the way in which the government’s supercomputer worked through anyone’s cell phone? That movie is not so far from reality. The truth is that the government can activate any smartphone microphone, even when it’s in your pocket, and eavesdrop on a conversation. In other words, there is the distinct possibility that if you own a smartphone you’re under audio surveillance.

Although there are no statistics to suggest how often the government, FBI, or law enforcement listens in on our cell phones, it happens enough that there’s a term for it: roving bug. As everyday citizens, we all would like to hope that our 4th Amendment rights are not being violated, but we know this isn’t always the case. Title II of the Patriot Act of 2001 enabled the government to wiretap phones without first seeking a warrant. The goal of this, stated by the FBI and the federal government was to “reveal the patterns of US citizens”. This seems to be a clear violation of the 4th Amendment. These actions, therefore, potentially open up anyone within the United States to have audio evidence collected from their device which could then be enhanced and/or used against them.

Attorneys should be asking themselves, then, would the evidence collected by a warrantless wiretap be admissible in court? The answer may be a shocking, “yes!” In regards to recording a private conversation in the state of California (which such an activity falls under the category of wiretapping) there exists a two-party notification clause. Meaning, both parties involved in the conversation (both the recorder and the one being recorded) must have knowledge of the recording. This is why many companies have the warning that states, “this call may be recorded…” Without the caller being informed, the recording is considered as having been obtained unlawfully. Nonetheless, NCAVF worked several cases where private conversations were secretly recorded without the knowledge of the recordees. In these cases, despite the recorders opening themselves up to potential criminal and/or civil punishment, the recordings were accepted into evidence in the court and used as part of the proceedings.

Edward Snowden, the ex-CIA contractor who is infamously known for disclosing government secrets, revealed a program allegedly being deployed in the UK. The UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) supposedly has been using a suite of phone hacks affectionately known under monikers using the “Smurfs” (as in the blue creatures from the 1980’s cartoon of the same name). For instance, the “Tracker Smurf” program allows the subjects phone to be located and tracked using its GPS. “Dreamy Smurf” allows the government to turn the phone on or off, while “Nosey Smurf” will remotely activate the phone’s microphone, allowing for the listening in on conversations. These “Smurfing” phone hacks are essentially malware installed by the GCHQ. (Read more on the GCHQ’s Smurf phone hacks HERE.)

Although it is unclear how one can protect himself from the government tapping our phones (aside from wearing aluminum foil hats), it is clear that everyone needs to be aware that being alone doesn’t necessarily mean we’re really alone anymore (if one has their phone with them that is). Incidents such as these may certainly arouse sentiments similar to what George Orwell thought of in his totalitarian future in 1984. But fortunately, we are not there yet. None the less, it is important for all people to be aware of what their government is doing in regards to audio surveillance and how it may affect us. What’s more, attorneys specifically should be keen on how this type of audio evidence may be used in court, both for or against their clients.

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Attorney Has Self For Client, and Wins Using Forensic Photo Analysis

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Attorney Has Self For Client, and Wins Using Forensic Photo Analysis

Attorney Has Self For Client, and Wins!

There is a well known adage among attorneys that states a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. But what if the attorney has himself for a client, and wins using forensic photo analysis? NCAVF recently assisted an attorney with a family law case involving digital photos. In this particular case, the petitioner, the attorney’s ex-wife, claimed years of physical and sexual abuse from her husband, and she introduced numerous pictures as her proof. NCAVF’s client chose to act as his own attorney, and he must have heard this was frowned upon. In the end, however, NCAVF helped the client win his case using forensic photo analysis by proving the digital pictures introduced as evidence by the wife were doctored, altered, faked, or misrepresented!

The days of 35mm film cameras are almost all but a memory now. In fact, digital photography offers a new layer of forensic evidence – not previously available in “old fashioned” photography. With every digital picture taken there is metadata embedded in the information layer of that file. It was by utilizing this forensic photo analysis technique by examining and scrutinizing the picture metadata that NCAVF was able to help win the case.

Although the above quoted adage is generally accepted as truth, this case did seem to be unique. Representing himself, the attorney worked very hard, perhaps harder than a hired attorney would have worked for him. Clearly, this hard work was an advantage towards his overall success. However, he commented that he burned himself out in all the effort and worry that he had to put into the case. Further, representing himself also presented deep ethical issues in that he chose to cross examine his own accuser of abuse; such a thing may look bad and weigh on a judge’s or jury’s heartstrings, thus possibly influencing a decision. At the end of the day, the attorney noted to NCAVF that although having himself as a client did get him the win, he would not run his defense the same way if he could do it again. He’d hire an attorney.

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Rise in Video Evidence as Police Body Cameras are Used More

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Increasing the use of police body cameras will create a rise in video evidence

Increasing the use of police body cameras will create a rise in video evidence (photo compliments of CBS)

On Tuesday, September 15, LAPD officers shot and killed a man who officers claimed had a gun, which was recovered next to the suspect. As of June 1 of 2015, LAPD officers had shot and killed 10 people according to the Guardian Newspaper. Nationally, law enforcement officers had killed roughly 450 people by June of 2015. So what makes the LAPD shooting from September 15th different? It was one of the first LAPD shootings captured by police worn body cameras. As the LAPD, and dozens of other departments nationwide, begin to deploy body cameras, attorneys can expect to see a rise in video evidence and a lot more cases – both criminal and civil – where video may be central to their case.

As the number of police body cameras in use continues to rise, so do the costs. Initially, the upsurge in videos will certainly give attorneys and prosecutors more evidence to use in their trials and proceedings; but will this rise in evidence be sustainable (cost-wise) in the long term? The City Manager of Berkeley, CA estimates the costs of storing the videos captured by body cameras to be approximately $45,000 a year per 150 cameras. In a department like the LAPD, which plans to have cameras for all 20,000 full-time officers, that could come to $6,000,000 per year. This price tag would be for storage alone, and it does not include other potential costs such as maintenance, installation, repairs, etc. Other estimates suggest the cost could be as high as $24,000,000 per year for the LAPD to store the videos. With costs that high, departments may not be able to afford the body cameras far into the future.

In the here and now, however, attorneys need to take advantage of the rise in video evidence. The analysis, enhancement, and use of video and audio evidence can be crucial in clarifying the details and facts of a case. Having a firm and complete understanding of what the video evidence shows and how to use it can be the difference between winning or losing your case.

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