Date of Award

Fall 12-9-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. Kyna Shelley

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Richard S. Mohn

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Lilian H. Hill

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Dean J. Bertram


One goal of this research was to determine potential themes that may influence the understanding of Digital and Multimedia Evidence (DME) by attorneys and Digital Forensic Examiners (DFE) within the United States Criminal Justice System. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted to gather information from experienced criminal attorneys and DFEs regarding potential influences on their understanding of DME. The results of these interviews were transcribed, and the data coded to allow for qualitative analysis. Five themes were developed from this data and are thought to play a role in understanding of DME by attorneys and DFEs: motivation for involvement in the criminal justice system (passion for the job, desire to work in law enforcement, monetary gain, sense of ethical obligation, and seeking justice), experience (and knowledge), generational influences (age and the CSI Effect), communication within defined roles, and education/training. These five themes were used as a guide to develop a questionnaire that was then distributed to attorneys and DFEs across the U.S.

Statistical analyses were conducted on the survey results from attorneys (n = 14) and DFEs (n = 44) in relation to the five themes. Attorneys and examiners agreed on many facets of each theme. The most influential motivational factor for seeking a career as an attorney or DFE is a passion for the field. Experience was determined to be one of the most influential key components to understanding DME. Increasing age and the CSI Effect may be detractors to understanding DME. An increase in frequency of communication between attorneys and DFEs has the potential to affect DME understanding and case efficiency. Higher educational levels of attorneys are much greater than DFEs, but technical DME training levels, which influence DME understanding more, are much greater for DFEs. Attorneys tend to use online research as a primary learning method, while DFEs rely primarily on technical training. Each of the identified themes shows promise for influencing understanding of DME by Attorneys and DFEs within the U.S. criminal justice system. Vicarious secondary trauma was also examined and is experienced by attorneys and DFEs working with DME. Training on recognition of vicarious secondary trauma is recommended.