Any law enforcement agency operating in the SVRCFL’s service area may request assistance with the following activities—
- Pre-Seizure Consultation
The SVRCFL 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 Service Request to the SVRCFL. 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 SVRCFL 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, 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 are scientists—and as such, their job is to conduct a thorough and objective examination of 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.
- Cell Phone Investigative Kiosk
This kiosk allows users to extract data from a cell phone, put it into a report, and burn the report to a CD or DVD in as little as 30 minutes. (Visit the Cellebrite website to see which phones are actively supported.)
- Loose Media Kiosk
Our Loose Media Kiosk (LMK) enables users to review evidentiary data found on such items as hendheld electronic devices such as thumb drives, flash media, CDs/DVDs and more.
Requests for examination or on-site assistance are accepted on a case-by-case basis from any law enforcement agency in the SVRCFL service area. The SVRCFL prioritizes each request according to the nature of the crime and available resources.
Law enforcement agencies should first contact the SVRCFL to discuss the request for service, and then complete a Service Request.
All investigators are required to process loose media (USB flash drives, DVDs, CDs, floppies) and cellular phones with the kiosks available at the SVRCFL. Personnel with unescorted access to FBI facilities may use other kiosks available in the San Francisco FBI office, Oakland Resident Agency, and San Jose Resident Agency.
The Silicon Valley Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory has temporarily suspended evidence submissions and examinations for all non-participating agencies.
The SVRCFL may be able to assist on high profile or critical-need examinations on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us regarding these requests.
Agencies that support the SVRCFL with personnel or funding include:
- Alameda County Sheriff's Office
- Fremont Police Department
- Newark Police Department
- Palo Alto Police Department
- San Francisco Police Department
- San Mateo County Sheriff's Office*
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
* We are not currently not accepting submissions from any San Mateo County agency until the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office has a replacement Task Force Officer in place at the SVRCFL. Any questions regarding submissions from San Mateo County agencies should be directed to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s crime laboratory management.
Law enforcement agencies in the SVRCFL service area may request use of the SVRCFL training facilities for law enforcement personnel.
Contact us for additional details.
Shipping Digital Evidence
If evidence is being shipped to the laboratory, please contact the SVRCFL 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. 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.
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 SVRCFL. This is very important information for the Examiners to have.
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.