The Judiciary’s first national computer forensics laboratory marked its first full year of operation in 2018. The lab at the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in St. Louis helps federal probation and pretrial officers around the country as they supervise increasingly tech-savvy populations. It is saving time and money because courts across the country can use the lab’s services in lieu of setting up their own, and they can get faster results than they had been getting using outside law enforcement agencies.
Since opening in late 2017, the lab has provided services to 36 of the 94 federal court districts and has examined over 250 devices. Partnering districts pay only postage for the services. The facility and its three-person staff are equipped with six work stations, an electronic evidence-collection tracking system, and more than 25 hardware and software tools to examine everything from mobile devices to gaming consoles. The lab has inspected devices for a variety of cases, including those involving child pornography, fraud, and terrorism.
While some federal court districts have their own in-house labs, the creation of a national facility is helping districts avoid lengthy wait times for computer forensic services provided by local law enforcement agencies and FBI offices. It can take months to get results from outside agencies, while the lab in St. Louis averages a turnaround time of two weeks. The time savings can be critical when officers need to examine the contents of seized devices from people suspected of new crimes or of violating their supervision terms.
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