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Computers as evidence

 
 
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 12:52 pm
I was reading an article about the building demolition guy in Philadelphia who killed several people. (http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2013/06/07/Report-Philadelphia-demolition-backhoe-operator-had-drugs-in-system/UPI-75151370615962/)

In the article it says:

Quote:
City police detectives raided Benschop's home Friday afternoon and took away desktop computers, a hard drive, a notebook and boxes filled with documents, the TV station said.


Are computers always considered evidence now, even when the crime has nothing to do with computers?

Are they hoping to find that he was reading up on getting high and knocking buildings down on top of people?

What could possibly be on this computer that would be related to his crime?
 
contrex
 
  2  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 01:11 pm
Computers are used as communication devices, and for the storage of files and documents, so evidence may be relevant to crimes not necessarily directly related to computers themselves. Murderers have been shown to have Googled for methods of disposal of bodies, poisons, weapons, etc. These days peoples computers hold their whole lives including business dealings, emails, whatever.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 01:16 pm
@contrex,
But in this case what could they possibly learn from his computer?

Maybe he sent an email saying "Oh brother am I ever in trouble. I was high and knocked a building down on people."

The police already know that.

I'll bet a lot of writers look up the same sorts of things that murders look up.

I can understand the police wanting a computer in a few situations but I'm wondering now if they want them in EVERY situation.
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 01:18 pm
@boomerang,
Absolutely.

Think about how much you do with your computer, and how much I could find out about your activities, ideas and motivation from what I found there.

Someone's computer is like someones diary, except more revealing.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 01:19 pm
@maxdancona,
This guy didn't have a plan to screw up in such a colossal way.

What do his other activities and motivations have to do with his crime?
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 01:21 pm
@boomerang,
Quote:
What do his other activities and motivations have to do with his crime?


How could I possibly answer that question?


Unless, of course, I could look at what is on his computer.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 01:27 pm
@maxdancona,
So really their just looking for other crimes?

If they found evidence for a different crime on his computer I'm assuming he could be arrested for that.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  5  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 01:29 pm
@boomerang,
boomerang wrote:
This guy didn't have a plan to screw up in such a colossal way.

But it's the job of the police to make sure of that.

Maybe he was pressured by a supervisor to come in even though he was impaired.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 01:32 pm
@DrewDad,
Oh! That makes sense. Thank you.
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 01:37 pm
@boomerang,
Even in the days before computers were used, police looked at everything in someone's home, if that person was a suspect.
So now, computers are added to e.g. books, magazines, letters, diaries ...
0 Replies
 
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 02:07 pm
@boomerang,
boomerang wrote:

This guy didn't have a plan to screw up in such a colossal way.

What do his other activities and motivations have to do with his crime?


They might find evidence that he cut corners with his "backhoe" business (which Brits call "diggers" or JCBs) for example safety checks, maintenance, etc, that he falsified documents or records to do with safety training and qualifications, and so on, that he underdeclared income for tax, stuff like that. He has brought about the deaths of a number of people. I expect they are out to nail him for everything they can.

Do I get the impression that some people are bleating about this because they think it might be excessive?


boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 03:44 pm
@contrex,
He wasn't the business owner. He was just a guy hired to drive a truck.

I could understand them taking the company computers/records more than I could understand them taking a truck driver's records.

In fact, they could have found any relevant communication by the employee through the employer's records.

So, yeah, I think taking the employee's computer was excessive. Anything relevant to his job would have also been on the employer's computer.
ossobuco
 
  2  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 04:04 pm
@boomerang,
I dunno re the computer take. I'm working to imagine why they would need it, but perchance, he might have railed against the construction company and its practices to a pal re their being too strict; possibly re their being sloppy but I think that is less likely (to me).

On the situation, construction people on other jobs within sight of the demo building are online noting that they thought the demo process they were watching for days was shoddy (my word).

A) Why didn't they call the city building and safety people?

B) lack of demo inspection. I'll put this down to a busy department with low funds but I've no idea. From my short reading, ordinary safeguards weren't in place, and an apparently high bulldozer operator was down the line on responsibility.

Are demolition plans filed with cities?

Demo is an art, and this was artless.

boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 04:07 pm
@ossobuco,
If he had things on his computer that would have exonerated him -- complaints about his employer, for instance -- I imagine he would have volunteered those records to the police.

I'm back at square one wondering why they needed his computer.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 04:10 pm
@boomerang,
I'm off of the computer invasion stuff (for a bit here) and into the belly of Philly's building and safety..

on my last post, I edited yet again - check if anything sparks new interest.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Jun, 2013 04:38 pm
@ossobuco,
osso, I read

Quote:
Pennsylvania does not license demolition contractors, nor does the city. Williams said the city code does not require demolition contractors to show any proficiency in tearing down buildings.


here: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57588323/philadelphia-building-collapse-leads-to-charges-against-equipment-operator/

It sounds like Philly is pretty lax about demolitions.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Jun, 2013 06:46 am
@boomerang,
boomerang wrote:
Anything relevant to his job would have also been on the employer's computer.

But the police might not have a warrant for the employer's computer right now. Even if they do, they probably want to cross-reference things due to the possibility of tampering.
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  3  
Reply Mon 10 Jun, 2013 09:20 am
I'm more concerned about how long it takes to get the computer back to people. If the police take your computer and hold it for two months, that is increasingly a huge burden, especially if you are innocent. A new computer will set you back a few hundred and you have lost whatever you stored about your bankings, investments, etc. How do the kids do homework? I think there should be a requirement that computers are returned within days unless you can demonstrate a legal need to keep them for evidence.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Jun, 2013 09:47 am
The fourth amendment to the constitution covers search and seizure. The text of the amendment, in its entirety, reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That covers, obviously, arrest warrants, too. There is nothing procedurally nor historically exceptional in that text. Computers have become, increasingly, the equivalent of papers as the term is used in this amendment.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Jun, 2013 09:59 am
By the way, i've said all of my adult life that crime usually doesn't pay because of the caliber of the people who go into the profession. If one were contemplating a crime, and wished to get useful information online, there are few things more stupid that they could do than to go online from their home. If one wanted to use online resources, knowing that the activity they planned were criminal, they should go to a copy center or an internet cafe, log on anonymously and do their research, even if it meant creating an e-mail account in order to do it.

Furthermore, if the data on your computer is very important to you, you should be storing it off-site anyway. If you have a house fire, you lose everything on your computer irrevocably, whereas if you were accused of crime, but were innocent, you'd eventually get your computer back. In businesses for which i have worked, i have always advised them to back-up the hard drives of their computers on a regular basis (once a week would be a good idea, so as not to have an overwhelming task if you do lose your data), and to store at least one copy somewhere else.

If you were worried about how that the police might come and take away your computer for whatever reason, but are confident that you are innocent of any crime, you can make your regular back-up and give it to someone else to store. If the police come by and take your computer, it's not as though you have to jump up and say: "Hey, there's a back-up of all my data that Engineer keeps for me at his house. You want the address?"
0 Replies
 
 

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