Not too long ago, I received a video from the Commonwealth, that appeared to show my client shoplifting. He was charged with Petit Larceny. This was a first offense for him, with no other criminal record – not even a traffic ticket. My client maintained his innocence, and was upset that the video given to me appeared to have him taking an item from a shelf – but not placing it back.
Most attorneys would think that the case was open and shut. Not so. The video was a fairly clear video, but it appeared to have some slight degree of increased time-lapse built into the replay, even though at first blush, it seemed to be running at a normal speed. I knew the tactic. I contacted a forensic audio, video and image expert to review the video. He slowed down the video to a normal frame by frame viewing, and voila, the video showed my client clearly placing the item back onto the store shelf. Had the video been left at the speed given to me in the time lapse speed, the frames showing my client placing the item back on the shelf would have been omitted to the naked eye.
There is a lesson here. In today’s digital world, it is too easy to alter evidence – whether it is a recording, a video, photographs, or any other type of recording medium. Enter the world of exposing tampered recordings. If an attorney practices long enough, she will see this happen quite often.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) recently published an article entitled “Evidence Forensics – Exposing Tampered Recordings“ written by Doug Carner. Doug Carner is a forensic audio video and image enhancement and authentication expert, and is the president of Forensic Protection, Inc. The article is well worth reading and a caution to anyone facing prosecution with evidence that purports to be an actual recording.