Just as in the movie Star Wars the dark side is viewed as the evil side, thus being on the dark side of the law is to be one with evil. Or as cops like to say, the “dark side is the side where all the defense attorneys are”.
In reality one does not go to the dark side by force. I surely did not wake up one morning attacked and kidnapped by the dark side forces. I was not besieged by a horde of defense attorneys and carried away to a dark, evil and foreign land.
I was simply contacted by an attorney and asked to look over some reports and OFFER an OPINION based on my twenty five years of experience with the Florida Highway Patrol. The case was a traffic homicide and I advised the attorney that I would not lie, exaggerate or provide any false information.
As a Senior Traffic Homicide Investigator with the Florida Highway Patrol my experience in crash analysis and reconstruction includes over 700 traffic vehicular homicides or serious bodily injury cases with 799 hours of applicable education.
I was given police reports, photographs, documents and other evidence to review and advise whether or not I agreed with the report based on the information provided. I was only asked to review a report and provide my opinion. Was the defendant guilty? It really didn’t matter
I took the case, read the reports, reviewed the math, photos, statements, and reviewed everything that was offered in discovery and what do you know? Based on my past experience I uncovered a mistake and questioned whether the investigating officer conducted a thorough investigation.
How did I know the investigation was lacking substantial evidence that a crime had been committed? I was that investigator at one time. I conducted hundreds of investigations during my career and each one of them made me a better investigator.
I approached each investigation simply by being thorough. Taking the time to gather ALL the information on the individuals and vehicles involved, conducting witness statements, measurements and hundreds of photographs. I ensured every piece of evidence was supported by the documentation on which I would base my conclusion and subsequent investigative report.
While being thorough and paying attention to detail is a key component to any investigation; adapting to change is just as important. When following a lead or that mystical string to the end; you must be flexible. You must be open to and recognize another lead or a shift in your original theory; explore the possibility and confirm the fact(s).
As an investigator for defense criminal attorneys my job is NOT to prove that law enforcement did anything wrong. My job is to ascertain whether or not a valid, concise and realistic investigation was conducted.
My job is to ascertain if the evidence was taken at face value and whether or not an investigator submitted an investigative report based on their perception of the obvious.
My job is to make sure the law enforcement investigator DID THEIR JOB. If yes; my report states in part that nothing in the original investigation could be attacked”. If not; then MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU.