Forensic Transcription

Findings of forensic evidence can significantly impact the outcomes of family, immigration and criminal law cases. Today, forensic evidence constitutes samples not only from the conventional source the human body but also information from smartphones, laptops, CCTV footage, and more. When audio and video evidence collection is done following industry best practices, these recordings can provide important forensic evidence. Forensic transcription, a category under legal transcription services, plays a key role in helping lawyers analyze the data within court proceedings to determine if a crime has been committed, what that crime is, and who could be guilty.

Audio Forensic Expert defines forensic audio transcription as “the scientific observation of words under controlled conditions derived from an enhanced audio recording”. Audio enhancement involves reducing unwanted sounds and enhancing the dialogue and other wanted sounds within an audio evidence recording. Audio transcription services are used to interpret the dialogue in the recordings and obtain forensic transcripts to identify what was said.

Forensic Transcription Process

The forensic transcription process involves the following steps:

  • Audio enhancement: Background noises in the recording are a challenge for any type of transcription. The first step in forensic transcription is audio enhancement — improving the audio recording’s clarity without compromising its integrity. Forensic audio enhancement is “the process of using various software programs and expert filtering to remove unwanted sounds and increase the volume and intelligibility of the wanted sounds, normally conversations. Background noise includes noisy furnaces, air conditioners, buzzes and hums, traffic, and wind (www.primeauforensics.com). Experts follow best practices set forth by the scientific community to perform thorough enhancement services.The aim of forensic audio enhancement is to remove unwanted noise and if needed, improve the quality of the dialogue or speech enhancement. This is important to arrive at conclusions about the events within the recorded forensic evidence.
  • Transcription: The next step is transcription. Leading digital transcription service providers have skilled legal transcriptionists on board who can ensure accurate and reliable representation of audio and video evidence in quick turnaround time. Verbatim transcription is provided that captures speech word-for-word, including stutters, pauses and other noises. Facts, dates, and quotes, will be provided faithfully in easily accessible in text format. The term “unintelligible” will be used in the transcript if the transcriptionist cannot discern what specific people are saying. A reliable service provider will also handle these recordings with confidentiality, the most important consideration when it comes to legal evidence.
  • Quality assurance: Any type of transcription requires a detailed quality check before delivery. Reputable transcription companies have stringent quality assurance processes in place to ensure consistent, high quality transcription with an accuracy rate of 99% or higher.

How Transcription Overcomes the Challenges of Audio and Video Evidence

When performed by professionals, forensic transcription can ensure accurate evidence for criminal cases.

  • Captures information correctly: Forensic analysis involves listening to or reviewing audio and video evidential recordings. However, according to a www.frontiers.org report, the two main challenges are:
    • understanding what is being said, and
    • identifying the speaker in multi-speaker recording

This can lead to unreliable evidence that can misinform the jury and lead to errors in the judicial process.
Accurate digital transcription of the recordings will clarify names of speakers, as well as what was actually said. It ensures that the evidence is captured correctly for review by judges, juries and legal professionals.

  • Supports precise audio and video redaction: Accurate transcripts are also important for audio and video redaction. Redaction involves removing sensitive information from audio files and videos and other data. The most common use of redaction is hiding the faces of those persons who appear in a video and should not be seen or identified, according to law or by preference.
    Today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) based facial recognition tools have enhanced the capability of redaction tools by allowing users to recognize, track, and redact faces or entire bodies from video. With AI, audio recordings can be edited by a linked transcript of the audio data, which also enables keyword searches within the transcripts. When the linked transcript is accurate it will enable very precise redaction of audio files (www.digitalmountain.com).
  • Supports audio/video evidence in the case: Forensics is the most important tool in medical malpractice litigation as well as insurance claims and cases involving product liability and paternity. Accurate transcripts of depositions and courtroom testimony by expert witnesses are necessary for peer review and also for review by audiences outside of the courtroom.
  • Language transcription: Foreign language recordings often form part of the evidence in criminal proceedings. Audio or video, analog or digital recordings of the speech of limited or non-English speaking individuals, when transcribed verbatim by a forensic transcription expert can preserve translation accuracy and the integrity of the evidence. Transcriptionists with highly developed listening skills and proficiency in both languages can transform oral speech into its written equivalent, while accurately capturing all aspects of speech including tone, register, and intent.

When it comes to forensic and legal transcription services, adherence to the appropriate standards and procedures when handling audio and video evidence is crucial to ensure accurate transcripts and translations that will assure reliability of evidence for evaluation by the judge and jury.