We all know that law enforcement is required by law (the US Constitution) to play by the rules. Illegal searches, for example, can result in the exclusion of any evidence or information gained through that search at trial. For example, a computer retrieved from a suspect’s vehicle as suspected proceeds of a crime, such as a burglary or theft, can usually be seized at the time it is discovered, but its contents cannot be searched by law enforcement without a search warrant signed by a judge. So, even though a computer happens to be seized lawfully, the contents of the computer cannot be searched without a warrant (unless there are very unusual circumstances at the time–referred to exigency–such as a child kidnapping, terrorist threat, etc.).
But what about private investigators? Are they required to play by the same rules? What if evidence is found on a computer that was searched by a private investigator or an agent of the investigator without the permission of the computer’s owner? Can that information be used in court?
First, it should be noted that any and all decisions regarding the admissibility of evidence in court, either in a criminal or civil trial, is at the discretion of the judge who weighs its relevance and admissibility. Even though potential evidence is collected lawfully, that doesn’t mean that it will automatically be made available in court. With that said, typically if a lawfully obtained item such as a computer or phone is turned over to a private investigator its contents can be searched with the consent or implied consent of the owner. So, if a private investigator happens upon a computer or other digital device/evidence during the course of an investigation, the same legal sanctions or remedies applied to the government, local or federal, such as the elimination of that evidence at trial, do not apply to private investigators–viewed as citizens in the eye of the law. However, it should also be noted that private investigators can be held criminally or civilly liable for wrongdoing the same as citizens. Consequently, anyone searching for a private investigator should be aware of that investigator’s level of integrity.
Forletta Investigative/Security Consultant serves the Pittsburgh, PA area with professional private investigators with only the highest integrity. Larry Forletta is the founder of FORLETTA, a Pittsburgh and Cleveland based private investigation company. Forletta has over 30 years of professional law enforcement experience and is a recognized expert in many aspects of criminal and civil investigations.
Forletta Investigative/Security Consultant provides expert private investigators in Pittsburgh who can assist with computer forensics relating to almost any type of civil or criminal case. Through Forletta’s professional relationship with digital specialists, deleted files, texts, and emails can potentially be recovered from computers or other digital devices. Additionally, digital evidence of copying, deleting, or transferring of files can also be analyzed. Forletta employs Pittsburgh private investigators to get the job done right. If you have a case near Pittsburgh, PA and have questions regarding computer forensics, call Forletta today!