Any law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island may request assistance (at no cost to them) with the following activities—
- Pre-Seizure Consultation – The NERCFL 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.
- 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 NERCFL Service Request Form. 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 NERCFL evaluates and approves a search request, the assigned examiner will contact the requester.
- Duplication, Storage and Preservation of Electronic Equipment and other Digital Evidence – Examinations are typically conducted on copies of the original evidence. Therefore, NERCFL 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 – NERCFL Examiners can locate, identify and organize digital evidence to expedite and assist the investigators review process. Examiners address specific investigator requests; however, 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.
NERCFL Service Requests
Service Request Form
To request any type of assistance from the NERCFL, please complete the service request form and submit it via email. Service requests are accepted on a case-by-case basis from any law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in the NERCFL’s service area. All requests are prioritized according to the nature of the crime.
- Download a Non-Participating Letter Template (Word)
NERCFL Training Requests
Any law enforcement agency in the NERCFL's service area may request training.
- Download a NERCFL Training Request Form (PDF)
Shipping Digital Evidence
When shipping evidence to the laboratory, please contact the RCFL for specific instructions regarding submittal procedures. For most examinations, submit only the central processing units and the internal and external storage media, and remember to:
- Use a sturdy container when shipping computer components - If possible, use the original packing case with the fitted padding. Use large, plastic bubble wrap or foam rubber pads as packing and never use styrofoam because it lodges inside electronic equipment and creates static charges that can cause data loss or damage to circuit boards. Seal the container with a strong packing tape.
- Pack and ship central processing units in the upright position - Label the outside container THIS END UP.
- Secure loose media - Such as disks, cartridges, tapes, hard drives, etc., to avoid movement during shipping.
- Always use a trackable method of delivery
Tips for Law Enforcement
When Submitting a NERCFL 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 NERCFL. 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.
Examination Best Practices
To help an RCFL provide the highest level of service to its law enforcement customers, the RCFL National Program Office recommends the following “best practices”, click here to review "Examination Best Practices – What Every RCFL Customer Should Know."
Upon request, the NERCFL will provide digital forensics services and training to any law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in the states of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island.