The importance of having a computer expert as your Internet cyber trial attorney

During a cyber trial, a computer crime, or a trial involving issues of Internet law, I can’t overstress the importance of having an attorney who is not only a legal subject matter expert, but also an expert in computer technology and the technical concepts related to the Internet.

Case in point, we recently completed a long and complex cyber crime trial.  We were fully equipped to expertly handle the criminal defense aspects of the case, we knew the law, how to cross-examine witnesses, and how to establish reasonable doubt.  However, during the trial, it was our technical expertise what allowed us to provide a unique perspective to the evidence presented.

For example, the alleged criminal activity was traced to our client’s IP address and MAC addresses.  However, the documentation used by the government contained errors that only an attorney with expert Internet technology knowledge would have caught.  Error number one was that one of the MAC addresses utilized by the government to justify the search warrant had one character too many, i.e., it was not valid.  The other MAC address pointed to a laptop computer, but the government identified it as a router.  These critical defects would have probably gone unnoticed to the eyes of the typical lawyer.  Does the average attorney even know how many characters there are in a valid MAC address?  I can guarantee you that the answer is no.

Another issue that came up was that the government’s evidence was mostly obtained through forensic analysis of hidden system files, such as the thumbs.db file and others.  If it takes forensic analysis to even retrieve evidence that a client who is not technically sophisticated and who does not have the necessary computer forensic tools is accused of “intentionally” possessing, how can the government show intent?  It took a lot of finesse, patience, and art to explain to the court how the evidence presented could have been retrieved in the first place.  The typical non-technical attorney would have had a hard time understanding these concepts and attacking this evidence.  I have seen cases forced to a settlement or plea that is not warranted under the circumstances simply because, although the attorney can competently argue the law, he/she can’t competently argue the technology.  Our expertise includes technical degrees in Computer Engineering and years of Internet technology experience.

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