The SIE Group

Specialists in image
evidence and courtroom

Surveillance From Space: An Emerging Source of Legal Evidence

Today, dozens of imaging satellites provide an untapped resource for attorneys and other legal professionals. In those instances to date where satellite imagery has been utilized as legal evidence, the outcomes have been overwhelmingly in favor of the user. In fact, many times the existence of satellite image evidence has induced a settlement out of court due to its cogency.

Satellite surveillance provides an ideal source of evidence in many legal actions. The growing number of imaging satellites and their constant operation, as distinct from the mission specific nature of aerial photography, make satellite surveillance analogous to a security camera. Satellite platforms provide repeat coverage of a site, global access and coverage, rapid deployment to image an event in progress, cost effectiveness, and secrecy.

The Satellite Image Evidence (SIE) Group at Archer Geographic has been formed to provide clients in the legal community the capability to utilize satellite image evidence to win cases. We have brought all the necessary elements together from data search and acquisition services, to data handling and analysis, to the creation of courtroom graphics and presentations and to providing expert witness services.

Benefits of Satellite Image Evidence

Satellite images can provide a unique perspective at trial not attainable from other vantage points - giving a synoptic view of a site, and highlight relationships not always obvious from the ground. Overhead images also put a site or scene into a real world context by showing what is around it. Satellite photos effectively show proximities within an area, and when geometrically corrected are useful for making measurements of distances and areas. Satellite or aerial photographs have an innate ability in court to create a "being-in-place" experience, allowing a jury to put themselves into the milieu of a case. Such visual aids have also been shown to increase the jury's cognition and information retention when used at trial.

In addition to these more demonstrative uses, satellite imagery can often provide direct evidence in many cases. "Before" and "after" photos can be especially powerful in evidence, and help establish cause and effect. Satellite and aerial photos are ideal for documenting changes at a site over time, including the nature of change, the extent of change, and the timeframe in which changes occurred. Satellite images can also in many cases document conditions at a given point of time at a specific site, verifying past events or locations, much like a security camera.

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