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Internet Crime/Sexual Misconduct

Jeffrey H. Garland has extensive experience in defending charges based upon the use of computers and the internet, as well as other allegations of sexual misconduct. Depending upon the type of crime charged, the computer or smart phone may be a repository of information which may be used to disprove some or all of the police allegations. In other cases, the use of the internet, and social media, may be key parts of the evidence. In yet other cases, there may be overlap between the internet, the cell phone and the laptop computer, such as e-mail, instant messaging and remote accessing technology.

In choosing an attorney for computer and internet related crimes, it is important to consider whether the attorney has experience in similar cases. In today’s world, computer and internet evidence interface with many different types of cases. The lawyer should know the principles of computer evidence, preservation and retrieval.

Mr. Garland has used experts who have special knowledge in various areas of computers and the internet. Such special knowledge allows an expert to give an opinion about a particular issue. Just because a police expert may be knowledgeable about one aspect of a computer examination, such as the Encase software, does not mean that the same expert may be competent to testify about operating systems, search engines or security software.

Computers used to be isolated systems. In today’s evolving technology, computers often operate “through the cloud” and keep their data saved in places other than the computer itself. Additionally, a smart phone can perform many of the tasks previously restricted to laptop and desktop computers. None of these internet accessing devices are safe from intrusion. On some occasions, nefarious individuals or organizations attach spyware to legitimate-appearing websites or information. Just because information or images appear on a computer does not mean that the computer operator expressly placed them onto the computer. Such nefarious data may have been placed on the computer, or into the data bases, with no knowledge or intent on the part of the computer operator. A person charged with a computer crime should not assume that they are guilty just because information is found on the computer. It must first be demonstrated how and when the information was placed onto the computer, and that the person suspected of wrongdoing knew it was there.

Computer browsers will automatically remember websites, images, and e-mail. An individual is not necessarily guilty of “possessing” data just because it happens to appear in the temporary internet file or in the “lost files” portion of the hard drive. Since data is often saved automatically by the computer, there is no presumption that a given person “possesses” the data found in temporary internet files. Similarly, “lost files” cannot be readily be accessed by a computer operator without using special software unavailable to most individuals. Since such lost files would not be accessible, the computer operator could not be in “possession” of them.

The Windows operating environment also keeps track of date and time. The date and time of a computer can be changed with a few key strokes. Therefore, contrary to most assumptions, the date and time stamps on a computer do not necessarily correspond to actual dates and times.

Knowledge of this is important in determining whether a given individual can establish an alibi, or whether the government can disprove the individual’s alibi.

Federal agencies employ highly trained, specialized computer experts to evaluate electronic devices and systems. Such government experts have developed new techniques within the past several years which can track computer activities from its registry, from keystrokes, and from footprints on peer-to-peer systems, to establish that the computer was intentionally associated with inappropriate activity. These techniques are becoming more advanced and capable.

For these, and many other reasons, a person should choose an attorney with sufficient technical knowledge about computing and internet principles to understand the issues associated with such cases and, as necessary, to confer with appropriate experts.