Where do I begin on his topic. This topic is one of the most important topics for law enforcement, which is the ability to capture the screen as you see it, when viewing evidence, whether it be on social media, or other website you are viewing. Most importantly, it is crucial that all evidence captured on Social Media websites, at least in my district, would require a Court Order collecting the official business record of the documents being viewed which definitely could be challenging for a street patrol officer.
Courts are recognizing image and video evidence as it relates to screen capturing, and is now accepted as long as the screen capture is of the law enforcement officers screen, and contains the entire screen when being viewed, unaltered. Courts are also recognizing PDF print outs of the websites or social media sites as you are viewing it but due to the way PDF outputs, can alter what you are actually viewing on the screen, as it attempts to format the screen for a printer friendly view. One of the most important parts of screen capturing is you are going to be able to testify that the capture you made is unaltered and accurate of the website or screen evidence you were viewing at the time you were viewing it, and is the main reason it is still preferred for a full screen capture of what you were viewing, of the evidence you were capturing. This being as the screen capture is capture the date, time, and other elements of your screen. I am going to introduce you to several free tools to capture this type of evidence, and another paid tool which I use to capture screen evidence.
Example Use of Screen Capturing: As a Law Enforcement Officer, I am viewing a Facebook post which contains information of an assault and/or battery which I want to capture for evidence use. For this example I will use the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, to capture a post.
Windows Snipping Tool
This is probably one of the most widely used tools since its inception in Windows 7 and up, which is included in Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10. I know, I know, you are an old school screen capturing fool where you used the keyboard command “PrtScn” or Print Screen key, and then pasted the image in Windows Paint, or other similar program. But what happens if you have two or three computer monitors and the pasted image contains all three screens? Go ahead and alter that capture and see what happens to your evidence! Look, I was a “PrtScn” Print Screen button pusher but when I discovered the Snipping Tool in Windows 7 and above, I was like Ohhhh!
How to Use
First view the website you want to capture for evidentiary use. As in this example, I am going to capture Zuckerberg’s post on the meeting with Dallas Police Department’s officers. Obviously this is not of importance but just an example.
Find the Windows Snipping Tool in the Windows Accessories Folder, or type in Windows Search or Windows Cortana “Snipping Tool”. Once loaded, the Windows Snipping Tool will look like below.
This is absolutely the number one tool in my screen capturing toolbox and in fact, is a short cut on my Start Menu and Desktop. Next, click on the drop down arrow next to the “New” menu, and select “Window Snip”. You might be asking why the entire window. It has come with experience that when attempting to get screen capture evidence in court, the District Attorney / State Attorney, Attorney’s, and jury expect some type of Date/ Time stamp when viewing this type of evidence. Yes, you can get this information from the images EXIF data, but would require someone with knowledge to testify to what EXIF data is. Most of your prosecutors have no idea what this is. So when you capture the entire window, essentially you are also capturing your systems Date / Time, and programs in use, at the time of the screen capture, and most importantly, the screen as you view it including your browser, and the URL you are accessing the screen capture in.
Once you are done, simply save the file in your favorite format and now you have an image file of the screen capture, as you saw it on your screen. Transfer it to a disc or to a media specific per your department’s policies and procedures when collection digital evidence.