In legal matters, technology can make a tremendous difference. It can help to expedite court processes, improve research and communications, and even serve as evidence in a court case. Technology, however, can also be a double-edge sword.
Even before technology began transforming the legal industry, there have long been pitfalls in the fine details of a case. This is popularly referred to as “getting off on a technicality” wherein an error or loophole at some point in a case absolves or acquits the defense and dismisses the case.
Defense attorneys often work to dismiss a pretrial case and may find an error the prosecution made as grounds for dismissal. They may also use technicalities to postpone a trial or make a motion for a new one. In one recent case, an issue with technology prompted a defense attorney to seek a new trial.
Enabling a Loophole
In the western Maryland town of Cumberland, Attorney Ramon Rozas made a motion for a new trial following a blog post by company Cellebrite. The company’s phone-cracking product was used to provide evidence against the defense.
The blog post in question was written by the messaging service provider Signal, in which it claimed it could hack the Cellebrite device used in the forensics analysis, and identified a broader issue that Cellebrite’s systems are riddled with security holes. The post noted that security issues in the device’s software meant that it could be exploited and data could be manipulated during extraction from mobile devices. Police departments around the world widely use the Cellebrite device.
This loophole may have given Rozas and his client a means to seek a new trial on account of this technicality. This would enable the defense to examine the Cellebrite device. Whether or not the court allows a retrial is as of yet undecided, but Cellebrite’s security issue did provide the defense with a means to get a second chance in court.
One of the biggest issues with the Cellebrite product was that it lacked basic defenses at the industry standard, which effectively left holes in the software that could allow hackers to manipulate data. In the Rozas case, the Cellebrite product was used against his client.
The defendant was charged in relation to an armed robbery, and through evidence Cellebrite revealed from his cell phone, he was convicted. Following the revelation of this flaw, as the prosecution won in court, Rozas requested a new trial in light of Cellebrite’s issue.
Rozas argued in his motion to the court that, on account of Cellebrite’s “severe defects” and the prosecution’s reliance on the product, the court should permit a new trial. In doing so, the court would vacate the guilty verdict and allow a fresh trial to proceed.
What is noteworthy in this case is the prevalence of Cellebrite usage for forensics needs. Whether or not the defendant was truly guilty, the flaw in Cellebrite’s system could set precedent and potentially affect other cases, including dismissals and retrials.
Digital forensics, which Cellebrite provides, is an integral part of the modern legal system in that it can provide evidence to either convict or clear a defendant. Likewise, digital forensics can help the plaintiff in prosecuting a case. Though Cellebrite proved it has flaws, a viable and secure alternative is available to assist in court matters.
Secure Forensics performs digital forensics services from highly secure labs, yielding data that can be used fail-safe in a court case. We maintain credentials that follow strict industry guidelines to be a leader in digital forensics. These include our labs being audited to meet SSAE 18 SOC 1, 2 & 3 standards, following FIPS Level 3 strict chain of custody, and being a GSA contract holder.
If you require digital forensics services and need peace of mind that your information is in the hands of professionals who meet stringent standards, contact an expert today at 800-288-1407.