As a prosecutor, you have a lofty mission: ensure the fair, equitable, and timely administration of justice for your community. But as you work toward this mission, many of your day-to-day tasks come down to managing documents.
Criminal records, police reports, discovery documents: these are your building blocks of your work. If evidence is misplaced, if your organizing and search systems fail you, or if there’s too much of a delay in receiving evidence from law enforcement, you can’t effectively protect the rights and safety of your constituents.
As you search for prosecutor case management solutions, make sure that any technology you use empowers you to effectively manage evidence. Look for tools that can accomplish the Four Cs:
The 4 Cs of Quality Evidence Management:
Technology can facilitate evidence management in many ways, but these are some of the most crucial. Only choose prosecutor case management technology that accomplishes the 4 Cs.
When your evidence is scattered throughout different platforms and locations, you’re less able to see the full picture of the case and more likely to miss key information, hindering your ability to make the right prosecuting decisions. At its worst, this can lead to severe problems for you and your office down the road.
That’s why it’s crucial that your case management system brings all your evidence into one central digital location. It should be able to handle all the formats you need to deal with, including images, audio, and video evidence.
For increased accessibility for you and your team, this central repository should be cloud-based. That allows you to reach your information from any of your devices, from any location, rather than relying on costly in-office servers. The cloud reduces the chance of information being lost or damaged, and allows you to continue doing your job even when crises and disasters hinder your ability to work in your physical office.
Make sure your case management systems gives you unlimited file storage, so you can truly centralize all your documents (and also so you don’t have to worry about costly third-party storage).
Of course, centralization won’t help you if you can’t find what you need when you need it. Make sure your document management technology is highly searchable. You should be able to search for any term inside the document. You also want optical character recognition (ocr) so your system automatically indexes PDFs and other file formats, making them fully searchable as well. Tagging can also be a valuable feature for finding what you need and organizing your data (for instance, you could tag whether certain evidence is admissible or not).
To take full advantage of centralization, your technology should come with increased accountability tools. Look for software that tracks when evidence is received, who received it, and what its status is. You also want it to audit all actions, ensuring an air-tight chain of custody and authenticity.
To effectively pursue justice, you are completely reliant on others to provide you with:
- police reports
- witness statements
- recordings and transcripts from 911 calls
- photographs and diagrams of the crime scene
- medical records
- reports from expert witnesses
- crime laboratory findings
- and other evidentiary documents
If any of these documents are misplaced or delayed, it can significantly hinder your work. Under the increased public scrutiny many prosecutors’ offices are currently facing, miscommunication between departments should be kept to a minimum.
Technology can help, by providing portals for rapid and secure information sharing. Sometimes law enforcement departments use the same software used by prosecutors, which can facilitate information exchange. But with different needs and procurement processes, this isn’t always possible or effective. Look for case management options that allow trusted outsiders to securely share information without needing to buy the software themselves, through features like share links and secure document sharing portals.
Also look for software that can easily integrate with the software used by partner departments, and other popular tools.
The work of prosecutors and the expectations they face are changing every day. Even if you found out-of-the-box software that perfectly fit your workflow today, would it still fit tomorrow? Look for case management tools that you can customize to your needs. You want to be able to change how your system looks and functions, without needing to learn how to code.
Make sure your software allows you to add new fields, so you can record any information that is important to your office. Also look for the ability to add and remove phases to your project types, so your team can manage evidence throughout the entire case cycle, and also make adjustments over time.
You also need to be able to create folder structures that suit your office and workflow. When you open a new case, the appropriate folders and subfolders should appear automatically.
As you gather information, you can use it to create new or revised documents that will move your work forward. Look for prosecutor case management tools that help you create accurate, professional documents in a timely manner.
This is easier than ever now with automatic document generation. These tools allow you to create templates for all your routine documents—subpoenas, charging documents, warrant requests, responses to discovery requests, etc.—with special codes embedded inside. When you go to create a new document, these codes are automatically replaced with the information you’ve already entered into your case management system.
Not only does this save you the time you waste on redundant data entry and document formatting, it helps you ensure everyone in your office is creating accurate and professional documents.
Also make sure your case management tools allow you to prepare your evidence and other documents for future steps. You should be able to redact, annotate, bates stamp, and combine PDF documents, to make sure you share information in an appropriate form.
As the work of prosecutors becomes increasingly complicated, high-value technology, tailored to your work, is a necessity.
If your prosecutor case management software fully supports these 4 Cs, you’ll be able to protect your time, reduce stress, and maintain the high standards your job requires.