Electronic Documents and Computer Data

Electronic Documents and Computer Data

Electronic documents and computer data have become one of the most common forms of documentary evidence in modern criminal trials. For the purposes of Canadian evidence law, an electronic document includes any data stored or recorded on an electronic device that can be read by another electronic device or by a person. This definition includes metadata associated with computer files, emails, chat logs, other forms of electronic communications, and any other electronic communication.

Before being admitted as evidence, electronic documents and computer data evidence must be authenticated by someone capable of doing so. This person must have first-hand knowledge of the information contained in the reports. In some cases, an expert witness may be necessary.

Example

Person A is charged with child pornography offences after their electronic devices were seized and child pornography material was found. Law enforcement officials make a forensic copy of person A’s computer and extract the metadata to be used as evidence to prove person A was in possession of child pornography, as well as the quantity of child pornography.

At trial, the Crown introduces reports generated by law enforcement from the metadata found in person A’s computer. Included in these reports is the number of images and videos of child pornography found in person A’s possession, as well as computer data proving that person A shared some of the material with a third party, person B. The Crown calls an officer who worked on the case as a witness to authenticate the reports.

Common Examples of Electronic Documents and Computer Data 

  • Text messages, emails, or other electronic communications 
  • Printouts from a government website
  • Metadata from a computer
  • Content posted on social media
  • Records of any kind stored on a computer (bank records, business records, etc.) 

Legal Information on Demand:

  • Affordable

  • 6 Modules
  • 1 Hour of Video
  • 3.5 Hour Audiobook
  • 125 Pages
  • Instant Access

More Legal Information

Law Newbie™ is a free legal assistant developed by our criminal lawyers to help you understand the law.

Fingerprint

In criminal cases, there are very strict rules governing what evidence can be used and how it can be used.

The rights enjoyed of all those within Canada are contained in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Criminal procedure is the process by which an accused person is arrested and brought through the justice system.

Sentencing refers to the punishment that is ordered when an individual is found guilty of a criminal offence.

Firearm Smoke

Offences in Canada are listed in the Criminal Code. They include crimes related to people, vehicles and weapons.