Empowering justice: The evolving landscape of cellphone analysis in modern criminal investigations and evidentiary collection

Authors: D van Rooyen and JS Horne

ISSN: 1996-2118
Affiliations: PHD CJU Candidate, Department of Police Practice, School of Criminal Justice, University of South Africa; DLitt et Phil: Police Science (Unisa); Associate Professor, Department of Police Practice, School of Criminal Justice, University of South Africa
Source: South African Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 36 Issue 3, p. 434 – 461


In the wake of rapid technological advancements, there has been a remarkable increase in the adoption of mobile devices, also profoundly altering the manner in which individuals use their cellphones. This technological shift, accompanied by increased functionality and popularity of cellphones, provides law enforcement agencies with new avenues for investigative approaches, notably in the realm of mobile forensics. This article explores mobile forensics as a crucial tool for gathering evidence in criminal investigations. Drawing from in-depth analysis, qualitative interviews with the South African Police Service (SAPS) investigators and detective branch commanders, digital forensic investigators/analysts, prosecutors from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), a cellphone record analyst, and an examination of local and international literature, the study underscores the significant role mobile forensics plays in effective crime investigation. It advocates for enhanced training of investigators to align with evolving technology, emphasising the need for law enforcement agencies, particularly the South African Police Service (SAPS), to adapt and advance their investigative techniques in the face of ongoing technological transformation. Ultimately, the article aims to demystify mobile forensic analysis, offering insights to aid South African investigators in refining their investigative practices.