Lesson One:The Basics

Information versus Evidence

Investigations involve the task of gathering and evaluating information. The investigative process must be thought of in terms of gathering information, instead of gathering evidence. Information is essential in order to understand the relationship between the crime and the items of evidence.

Sources of Information

There are two sources of information: people and things.

Information From People

Information is derived from people and may not always be admissible in a court of law. Information consisting of rumors, tips, and hearsay can often place an investigator on the right track to solve a crime, but will probably never appear in testimony. The collection of this information requires the unique skill and ability to elicit facts that can be used to help uncover the truth, whether it comes from the victim, an eyewitness, or a suspect in the case. Each source must be dealt within a unique and skillful manner in order to obtain the information desired. A good investigator must be well-versed in conversational skills and be able to successfully draw out information that may not be readily forthcoming.

Information From Things

Physical evidence can often provide invaluable information to the investigator. However, this information cannot be used if the investigator does not understand and recognize the strict rules for collecting, preserving and presenting this evidence once it is discovered. Physical evidence consists of inanimate objects that cannot lie or flee. The investigator must develop a keen sense of detail when concerning potential items of evidence. Key items of evidence may be difficult to tack down, but monumental in helping prove a case. Familiarity with evidence is essential to becoming a successful investigator. Evidence cannot speak for itself. It needs someone to identify it, interpret it, and then present it for final evaluation.

Relative Weight of Information

Courts throughout the world have consistently given higher relative evidentiary value to information obtained from things, as compared to information obtained from persons. The reason for this is firmly established in the fact that things cannot lie and are not affected by emotion or motive. Direct testimony from persons may be subject to any of these defects.

Unanswered Questions

After obtaining all of the information and evidence related to a case, the investigator may still not be able to answer all of the questions. Quite frequently, cases have some unanswered questions. This is not always the fault of the investigator, but many times a reflection of the various individuals involved in the case, as well as the evidence discovered. Some of the reasons that all of the investigator’s questions may not be answered include:

► Incomplete information or confusion,
► Missing or destroyed evidence due to purposeful or accidental actions,
► The suspect may confess to the “crime”, but leave out pieces of key information in an attempt to downplay his/her premeditation or to lessen the role they played in the “crime”.
► Eyewitnesses to the crime may provide inaccurate information due to personal bias, or confusion.
► Eyewitnesses to the crime may have departed the area before the arrival of the investigator.

Those are some of the basic principles of investigation. Once you master these, you are on your way to becoming a real investigator.

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