Nicholas HughesTitles: A time of reckoning? Changing regulatory and judicial attitudes and the potential impact on digital forensics

Summary: The release of the report “Strengthening Forensic Science: A Path Forward” in 2009 had international impact, sending a shock through the forensic community. The report had a slower influence on the judicial community, however the 2009 report and subsequent reports are starting to more frequently shape judicial opinions that limit or reject forensic evidence. Many of the Court’s findings supporting the judicial opinions, including a lack of empirical data supporting the accuracy of the field, a lack of formal methodologies, and a lack of suitable validation for analytical methods, are problems that exist in the largely unregulated discipline of digital forensics. This talk looks to current and emerging issues in digital forensics from a legal perspective, tracks efforts to better address the foundations of the discipline, and seeks to predict how future research can help support the scientific underpinning and admissibility of digital evidence.

Bio: Nicolas Hughes is a proud career indigent defense lawyer and is the deputy director of the Harris County Office of Managed Assigned Counsel. In his previous roles at the Harris County Public Defender’s Office and State Counsel for Offenders, Nicolas won numerous post-conviction cases, appeals, secured many dismissals, and helped secure several not guilty verdicts. Not all of Nicolas’s work has been inside the Courtroom – Nicolas advocates for the rights of the accused before the Texas Forensic Science Commission, the Texas Legislature, and on forensic advisory boards. Nicolas particularly enjoys preparing defensive strategies that involve DNA, chemistry, and digital forensic evidence. Beyond his legal work, Nicolas has a master’s degree in digital forensics and has published several conference papers and an article in the field of digital forensics.