By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
The dictionary defines “investigate” as, “To carry out a systematic or formal inquiry to discover and examine the facts of (an incident, allegation, etc.) so as to establish the truth.”
Truth, then, is the focus of an investigation.
But virtually always we see the focus of an investigation is a person — not necessarily the truth. The assumption made by law enforcement is the person who is the focus of the investigation and the truth are one and the same thing. In other words, many, many “investigations” are flawed from the start. The result of the investigation is only correct where the assumption is also correct.
And it is further true when you ASSUME you make an ASS of U and ME.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an “investigation” start with a detective or police officer reaching their conclusion first. They call a tow truck to haul off someone’s car for DWI before they even ask the driver out of the car. They offer a complaining witness victim assistance information, sympathy, and promises of action after just moments of hearing one side. They promise action to someone who lost their savings when they come in blaming someone else for their loss.
Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call those police actions “the arrest process?” instead of an investigation? It is often clear the police aren’t interested in the truth — instead they are interested in arresting the person they think is guilty from the outset. They just know in their heart the truth without researching any of the facts. What could go wrong doing it that way?
The arrest process looks more like a geometric proof than a search for the truth. The police are checking to see if there is enough evidence for each and every element and if there is — then bang — case closed and the bad guy is handcuffed. The problems is many of the facts are rose-colored to the investigator and the standard for probable cause is low. Instead of putting pieces of a puzzle neatly together, the oddly-shaped pieces are jammed together to make the image already in the officer’s head.
The arrest process might be just fine in certain instances. I’m sure it often yields fair results. But let’s just not call them what they’re not — investigations focused on the truth.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about this or any topic you should consult an attorney directly.