In Their Own Words: Practical Tools and Techniques for Obtaining Post-Arrest Communications in Cases of Intimate Partner Violence and Human Trafficking

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90 Minutes

Originally Aired
August 30, 2017

Catherine Garcia
Catherine Garcia
Supervising Investigator, Sex Crimes, Human Trafficking, and Child Abduction, San Diego District Attorney’s Office
Carlton Hershman
Detective, San Diego Police Department (Ret.)

During a law enforcement investigation of intimate partner violence (IPV) or human trafficking, one often-overlooked area is post-arrest communication between victims, suspects, and friends and family members of suspects. Because of the intimate relationships involved in these cases, communication often continues throughout the process of the investigation, including after charges are filed and court hearings are underway. This can be true even if the victim and suspect are involved in a casual dating relationship. Obtaining these communications is a critical aspect of a thorough law enforcement investigation.

Suspects often exert pressure on the victim to thwart an investigation, by encouraging or threatening them to withdraw their participation or recant entirely. They also frequently “plant” untruths in the statements of victims and witnesses. Such communication can take place directly, or indirectly, through others such as friends and family members. This can hinder law enforcement’s ability to investigate the crime and keep victims safe. Valuable evidence can also be lost or overlooked, if investigators are deterred and simply move on to the next case.

One strategy for avoiding this trap is to focus on obtaining any post-arrest communications, particularly when the suspect is incarcerated. Even communications that seem innocuous at first, may ultimately support a crucial piece of testimony or impeach a witness or defendant in court. In some situations, the mere existence of communication between the suspect and victim constitutes a violation of a court order and can result in new charges.

In this webinar, two expert investigators will explain various types of communications that can be obtained during a law enforcement investigation, and describe how they can be used in court, using real-world examples. Discussion will include communications from suspects in jail or prison, as well as social media posts. The presenters will also explore the implications for human trafficking investigations, since many of these cases start out as IPV, as well as elder abuse. Technical tools and tips will be provided for obtaining and preserving various forms of communications (e.g., recorded jail communications, cell phones, computers).


At the conclusion of this webinar, participants will be better able to:

  • Explain how post-arrest communications (such as jail recordings and social media) can provide valuable evidence during the course of an IPV investigation.
  • Consider the implications of these strategies for cases involving human trafficking and elder abuse.
  • Discuss practical tools and tips for obtaining post-arrest communications, including programs that can help to locate additional witnesses from the information obtained.
  • Explore how the content of post-arrest communications can be used to corroborate or impeach statements and testimony offered by victims, suspects, and/or witnesses.

This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K015 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

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