By: Bill Pilchak – 10/2/14
In approximately one month, readers of Dbusiness will see Pilchak & Cohen’s first-ever display advertisement, as we capitalize upon their selection of our firm for their “Top Lawyers” edition. Given the opportunity to describe what distinguishes us, we included the following statement:
“Legal Scholars using law enforcement investigative and forensic techniques in civil cases.”
Those who have worked with us know that we will attempt to locate evidence beyond the obvious he-said, she-said statements to make the truth undeniable – especially when it favors our clients. Computer forensics, surveillance, even dumpster-diving have cracked open cases in the past. Everything ethical is in play.
Today, something reminded us that our clients, too, can employ evidence-gathering tricks learned from the CSI teams we see on TV. Virtually every one carries a forensic tool with them at all times: a Smartphone. Virtually all modern devices include a camera and most will take videos. Imagine how your documentation supporting discipline will be enhanced by photos taken “on the scene” and printed out for the file. Will the skid-marks showing the hilo was moving too fast when it dumped the load be buffed out by the janitorial crew in the next 24 hours? Snap a photo. Joe inexplicably turns out only 24 parts per hour on the midnight shift? Take a 5 minute candid video of Bob producing one part per minute on the day shift to show that 60 parts per hour is possible. You know that your carrier (like most) will only keep the crucial text for six months? Use another device and take a picture of the text, so that it is preserved forever. Freda is exploding in fury again? Work your inner-Cecil B. DeMille and make a movie. The possibilities are endless.
Beyond the camera feature, most smartphones double as digital recorders. Gone are the days when one must locate a tape recorder and purchase tapes for an interview. If you are investigating an incident and interview a witness who might later be pressured (i.e., by their union or co-workers) to change their story, consider pulling out the cell phone to “take a formal statement.” Although Michigan law permits a participant to a conversation to secretly record it, (it isn’t “eavesdropping” if one is party to the discussion), it is always better to place an introduction on the recorded statement showing that the subject knows of the recording.
As you can see, the possibilities presented by technology are endless. If you can see something or hear something that supports your conclusion, go to work, Sherlock.