By: Jack Murray CLI (ret) CFE,CCDI
Executive Director International Council of Accident Investigators and Rconstructionists
Right now Iím working on a fourth volume in my series on Accident Investigation In the Private Sector and contrary to what some folks believe, I do not just make this stuff up as I go along, it requires research and documentation
My Grand daddy always told me ìManual Labor Dulls the Mind.î He told me a lot of other silly stuff too! But, we digress. Todayísí internet provides the investigator an unbelievable source of manuals that can be downloaded on a wide variety of topics of interest in both civil and criminal cases. The best part is theyíre all free.
A great deal of what I have searched for on the internet is related to traffic accident investigation and/or reconstruction, but many of these manuals have information that is applicable to other areas both civil and criminal.
One primary example is the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Handbook of forensic Services. (wwwFBI.gov). This 183 page volume covers such areas as DNA collection and testing, latent fingerprints, trace evidence and many others.
This type of information is not only a good resource for finding out more about what youíre dealing with, but it serves as a guide line for cross examination of experts as to whether or not they followed accepted protocols, and/or procedures, in the collection and/or testing of evidence.
You yourself may not use this information, but you pass it on to your attorney client for their use in preparing their case.
Two volumes of interest to investigators involved in alcohol and/or drug related, traffic accidents are: ìAlcohol Toxicology for Prosecutors,î and ìOvercoming Impaired Driving Defenses.î These volumes can be used as a guide as to what to expect from a prosecutor and as a outline for cross examination for police officers.
A third publication that is most helpful in both civil and criminal motor vehicle accidents is also available at the same site: ìCrash Reconstruction for Prosecutors.î This manual can be used in both civil and criminal cases.
All three are available from the National Association of District Attorneys (www.ndaa-apri.org)
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are on line and can be downloaded either in entirety or in part Virtually every individual states commercial driving license manuals are on line.
The National Center for State Courts, www.ncsconline.org has an interesting feature in their Frequently Asked Questions section, where they have links for all states that have code provisions and protocols for handling and or admitting DNA evidence.
A Multidisciplinary Protocol for the Investigation of Child Abuse is available on line from http://www.acainfo.ahsc.arizona.edu/protocol/apache.pdfÝ
The U.S. Secret Service www.secretservice.gov has a manual on ìBest Practices for Seizing Electronic Evidence.
The International Association for Property and Evidence has a manual on the protocols for creating and running a property room. http://www.iape.org/standards This can be very valuable when there is any question about how evidence was handled by law enforcement. Remember the French Connection?
Showing that an agency didnít adhere to standards of an organization doesnít preclude it from being admitted, but it does raise questions with a jury.
What do you do after you have collected all of the material appropriate to your situation?
First thing is to go through the manual and highlight the sections pertinent to your case. Mark these pages with a small post it type tab. Color code the tabs and create a small reference page with the color coding for each topic.
Now, you can just put it together in a manila folder and hand it to the client, or your boss, or you could staple it together (not a good idea), in the case of large manuals to be used at trial, put it in a loose leaf notebook
Unless it is a very large document e.g. The FBI Handbook of Forensic Sciences (183 pages), what we normally do is take a sheet of glossy photo paper and print the first page on that then we bind the document on an Ibico spiral binder. If you donít have facility to do this yourself, you can go to any Kinkoís or Quick Copy type establishment and have it done for a very minimal cost. Looks professional, is useful at trial and nothing gets separated or lost.
Always make a copy for your own future reference before binding any documents.
We bill the client for ìresearch timeî this includes our handling and printing time. If it proves useful in another case, for another client at another time, we bill it at the same rate as the original project.Ý