Any law enforcement agency operating in the NTRCFL's service area can request assistance with the following activities —
- Pre-Seizure Consultation – The NTRCFL can assist 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 Service Request Form to the NTRCFL. 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 NTRCFL evaluates the search request, the Deputy Director 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, NTRCFL 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 – NTRCFL Examiners are trained to 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 digital evidence, the prosecutor is likely to direct the Examiner to introduce the computer or digital evidence into court. As an expert witness, the Examiner explains under oath, how they conducted the examination and what they discovered as a result.
When requesting assistance, the law enforcement agency should first contact the NTRCFL to discuss the request, and then carefully complete one of the following forms or letters:
- Request Letter – The requesting agency should write a letter on their stationary that explains the nature of the request. The letter must contain a supervising agent's signature, and can accompany the Service Request Form.
- Service Request Form – Requests for on-site assistance are accepted on a case-by-case basis from any law enforcement agency in the NTRCFL's service area. The NTRCFL prioritizes each request according to the nature of the crime and uses the Service Request form to monitor and track cases.
- Training Requests – Any law enforcement agency in the NTRCFL's service area may request training. Simply complete the Administrative Request form and submit it to the RCFL. Upon receipt, a NTRCFL official will follow up with the requesting agency.
Case Acceptance Guidelines
- The NTRCFL will accept computers and Audio and Video (A/V) requests from agencies for all felony criminal and national security investigations.
- The NTRCFL will accept cell phones from agencies if the investigator cannot successfully obtain their data using the Cell Phone Investigative Kiosk (CPIK).
- The NTRCFL will accept loose media (Diskettes, CD-R disks, DVD disks, Blue Ray Disks, media cards, thumb drives and any other removable media) if the investigator cannot successfully obtain their data using the Loose Media Investigative Kiosk (LMIK).
- The NTRCFL will not accept misdemeanor cases without prior approval by the NTRCFL Director.
Cell Phone Kiosks
The NTRCFL has a cell phone kiosk which is available to all law enforcement personnel within our service area. This kiosk is a self-service tool which allows users to extract data from a cell phone, put it into a report, and copy the report to a thumb drive or burn it to a CD/DVD in as little as 30 minutes. It is recommended that you bring at least a 64GB thumb drive with you as the Lab cannot provide one for you.
To make arrangements to use the kiosk, contact the laboratory staff in advance to ensure someone is available to assist you.
Click here to download the Cell Phone Kiosk program's brochure.
Shipping Digital Evidence
If evidence is being shipped to the laboratory, please contact the NTRCFL 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 cardboard 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 computers and/or components and creates static charges that can cause data loss or damage to circuit boards. Ensure box is completely filled with ample bubble wrap to prevent contents from shifting or damage to the box. Enclose the Request for Service and Legal Authority inside the box. Seal the box with 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.
207 South Houston Street, 2nd Floor
Dallas, Texas 75202
Telephone: (496) 893-4309
Tips for Law Enforcement
- When Submitting a Service Request form — The case agent or officer should be as concise and thorough as possible. This form is 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 NTRCFL. This is very important information for the Examiners to have.
- Search Warrants — If a service request is pursuant to a search warrant, a copy of the warrant must be included with the 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.
To learn more about working with an RCFL, click here to read the "Examination Best Practices" fact sheet.