Any law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in Kentucky may request assistance (at no cost to them) with the following activities—
- Pre-Seizure Consultation – The KRCFL can help with search warrant preparation (only as it applies to digital evidence) by advising on related language that may be included in the affidavit. For example, it is recommended that state and local law enforcement agencies add similar verbiage to their legal authority when requesting warrants for digital evidence examinations, “The authorization of this examination extends to any agency or party working at the direction or request of the (state or local agency name), regardless of the jurisdiction or physical location of the agency or party.”
- On-Site Seizure and Collection – Requests for this type of assistance should be made a minimum of 48 hours in advance (the more lead time the better) by submitting a completed Field Service Request Form to the KRCFL. On occasion, an agency will uncover digital evidence that they are unprepared to manage. Under these circumstances, the advance notice requirement is waived. Once the RCFL evaluates the search request, the Operations Manager assigns it to an Examiner for action.
- Duplication, Storage and Preservation of Electronic Equipment and other Digital Evidence – Examinations are typically conducted on copies of the original evidence. Therefore, RCFL Examiners, can either duplicate (or copy the information) the media on-site, or they will bring the electronic equipment to the laboratory where they will duplicate the media and perform the examination.
- Prompt, Accurate, and Impartial Examinations of Digitally Stored Media – RCFL Examiners will conduct a thorough and objective examination of an electronic device to locate digital evidence and turn it into something that the investigator can review. It is not the Examiner’s responsibility to analyze the data for its meaning or significance to the investigation. This impartiality and objectivity lends credibility to both their findings and subsequent court testimony.
- Courtroom Testimony - As records are recovered from seized electronic equipment, the prosecutor is likely to direct the Examiner to introduce the digital evidence into court. As an expert witness, the Examiner explains under oath, how they conducted the forensics examination and what they discovered as a result. If your case is going to trial in state court, the Forensic Examiner must obtain a U.S. Department of Justice Approval (via a Touhy Letter) to testify. The Forensic Examiner will assist the requesting agency with the process.
- Cell Phone and Video Kiosks - Another alternative to a traditional forensic examination offered by the KRCFL is our Self-Service Cell Phone and Video Kiosks. In those situations where investigators don't require a complete forensic examination but are still interested in accessing data extracted from a cell phone or still images from a surveillance video or DVD, the laboratory offers self-service kiosks with equipment, supplies and immediate expert assistance. These stations are available by appointment during regular business hours. Evidence derived from these devices can be taken that day.
Self-service features include—
Cell phone extraction device
CD/DVD review and duplication
Digital extraction and screen capture to produce still images (photographs)
Conversion of VHS to DVD video
Preview of media for illicit images or pornography.
Not all cell phones are supported by the tools available in our Self-Service Cell Phone Kiosk. Your appointment manager will help to determine support at the time of your call.
- Media Kiosks
Another alternative to traditional forensic examination offered by the KRCFL are media viewing kiosks. In those situations, where investigators don’t require a complete forensic examination but are still interested in previewing data on an item the laboratory offers equipment, supplies, and immediate expert assistance. These stations are available by appointment during regular business hours. Evidence derived from these devices can be taken that day.
- Mobile Device Unlock Services (MDUS)
The KRCFL will facilitate the unlocking and analysis of cellular devices either through in-house operation, or through the FBI’s digital laboratory in Quantico, Virginia. Due to cost and the number of requests for this service, the KRCFL will only accept devices for MDUS requests from participating agencies. Non-participating agencies requests for service will be taken on a case-by-case basis and should involve a homicide, violent felony, or a crime against a child investigation to be considered. Non-participating agencies will hold lower priority for scheduling.
The recommended evidence handling procedures for locked devices for which you cannot obtain a password is different than with other devices, please contact the KRCFL for advice regarding handling at 502-423-6740.
Service Request Form
Legal authority is required for all service requests. Service requests submitted without legal authority will not be processed until proper legal authority is presented. To request any type of assistance from the RCFL, please complete the service request form and submit it via fax or email. Service requests are accepted on a case-by-case basis from any law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in the RCFL’s service area. All requests are prioritized according to the nature of the crime.
Shipping Digital Evidence
Packing: If possible, use the original packaging with fitted padding to ship digital items. If not possible, use a sturdy cardboard box, with plastic bubble wrap or foam rubber pads as packing. Make sure to use enough padding to keep the device from being damaged during transit. Do not ship devices in padded envelopes and never use Styrofoam because it lodges inside of the electronic equipment and creates static charges that can cause data loss or damage to circuit boards. Secure loose media such as disks, cartridges, tapes, and hard drive, etc. to avoid movement during shipping. Seal the container with strong packing tape.
Shipping: When shipping central processing units, computer terminals, ship in the upright position. Make sure to label the container with “THIS END UP” markings for transit.
If the device is found in water, gather the water with the device and place in a watertight container. Then follow the guidelines above.
When shipping Lithium-Ion batteries, please consult the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations, specifically UN3481, P.I. 966; UN3481, P.I. 967, and UN3090 P.I. 968 for proper shipping guidelines.
Tracking Numbers: Once you have received the tracking number for your shipment, please call the KRCFL at 502-423-6740 and share the number so that the package can be monitored during transit.
Tips for Law Enforcement
When Submitting a Service Request Form, the case agent or officer should be as concise and thorough as possible. These forms are used to make decisions about the request, therefore, any vague or ambiguous terminology may make it more difficult to interpret or understand what services are needed. As a result, this could slow down the processing of the request.
Turning On or Accessing a Computer
Indicate on the Service Request Form if you or anyone else in the chain of custody attempted to turn on or access the computer prior to submitting it to the KRCFL. This is very important information for the Examiners to have.
If a field service request is pursuant to a search warrant, a copy of the warrant must be included with the Field Service Request form. Likewise, if the service request is a result of a consensual search, a copy of the agency's “consent for search” form must be included. Failure to include this documentation will more than likely cause a delay in processing the request.
Handling Sensitive Equipment
Always use extreme caution or take precautionary measures such as grounding the static electricity before touching any of the internal components of the computer or handling sensitive computer equipment. For example, if the internal workings of a computer are exposed, the equipment could be damaged by a buildup of static electricity that is held by the human body. (Walking across a rug can produce a static electricity voltage of up to 12,000 volts.) The hard drive is especially susceptible to static electricity, even if it is exposed to a small amount of voltage, while a microchip can be damaged with as little as 500 volts of static electricity. If you're unsure about how to handle the equipment, then it is best to defer to a professional.
It is strongly encouraged for departments to purchase faraday bags and battery charging packs. While the KRCFL does not endorse third-party vendors, there are several options available in stores and on-line. We recommend agencies purchase a faraday bag large enough to contain the cellular device, a battery charging pack, and lightning cable.
As always, if you have any questions, you may contact the KRCFL if you need any assistance.
Examination Best Practices
To help the RCFLs provide the level of service its customers have come to expect, click here to review our list of "Examination Best Practices – What Every RCFL Customer Should Know."