Lesson of the Day-Evidence and Evidence Retention for Chain of Custody
Unfortunately, the field of Forensic locksmithing is rife with incompetence.
Why is this important to you? There are many reasons and they will be outlined in this post. In fact, this could make a substantial difference in your life if you are the unfortunate victim of an auto theft.
Insurance investigators have been taught (wrongly) that today’s vehicles with anti-theft transponder systems are impossible to steal without the owner’s key.
You vehicle is stolen, and you inform your insurance company. Immediately, from the time of the report, they are not going to investigate the matter as a theft, but as a fraud!
You will go through the investigation stage figuring that since you had nothing to do with the theft, they eventually will settle the claim. You would be wrong! You also assume as long as you are honest through the questions and into the examination under oath or recorded statement, everything will be fine. Again, you would be wrong!
In the begining from the time the vehicle is recovered if recovered, the investigator uses the vendor list and seeks out what they refer to be an “independent” Certified forensic locksmith, an engineer or whoever is on the list that performs ignition analysis. They are independent only because they are not direct employees of the insurance company. They have a vested interest in the outcome of the claim. If they don’t write favorable reports for the carrier they ate not needed and the carrier will go elsewhere.
The insured is never told they can have their own expert present to keep everyone honest.
This faceless forensic expert concludes the last key used was of the proper type. This insinuates that you were the last to drive the vehicle before the theft.
You the insured may be the victim but to the investigator, you are the perpetrator! The investigator is already sure of this.
Remember, your car can’t be stolen without your key. At least, that is what they believe because their experts taught them that at those free seminars.
By the way, you will very rarely get to see this expert’s report unless the case is in litigation. Once the report is written, the investigator uses their imagination and builds a financial motive as to why you needed to get rid of the vehicle. None of it has to be true. It only needs to appear to be true, which is the flimsy standard of preponderance. This is enough to have the claim denied!
The only recourse is to sue the insurance company and hope a judge or jury believes your side. You will also need to retain an expert such as myself to refute their expert that determined the vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type.
Now, that is the civil end. Lets say you are in California or New Jersey, Massachusetts or other regions that look at such claims as insurance fraud-felonies? You now have a real problem! You either need a criminal defense attorney, which ranges from $10,000-$25,000 to defend in Los Angeles.
If you dont have sufficient income, you will get either a court appointed attorney and the state or county has funds to cover an expert, or a public defender and again, depending on region may have funds for an expert or may not. Your chances with a public defender generally are not good. They are over worked and would prefer you just take a plea!
Now, we have gotten to the evidence issue and it a big one!
When the expert examines the vehicle, he will examine the ignition. It used to be before they got lazy, and I can prove in the past, they did much more thorough work nation wide, but evidently the attitude now is that no one knows the difference anyway. Why spend hours when an exam now can take minutes all for the same money or more?
The forensic examinations were much more detailed, accurate and leaving little doubt. The ignition was removed, disassembled. The internal components the wafers (tumblers) were subjected to a microscopic examination. Micro photos were taken of wear and markings. Keys were compared to the wafers for identifiable markings.
Since the real work was phased out and a dog and pony show were presented to the court as forensic, this created many issues. No longer was evidence removed from non-burned vehicles. The ignition was left in the vehicle. The show that was now the norm was to insert a lighted magnified scope in the ignition keyway. No photographs were taken. Key comparison to the wafers could no longer be performed. All one could do is look inward to the lock. If the lock was picked and markings were on the back side of the wafers, they could not be seen.
The keyway commonly was filled with lock lubricant and pocket lint, dust and dirt. These experts would put WD 40 in the keyway to clean it and insert a key. Now, you are using an abrasive in the lock potentially creating new marks. WD 40. What does it do? Penetrates!
Why the difference in protocol? No longer were the experts stating they could determine the last key used. They state that a key of the proper type was used. The difference: One does not need to be a forensic expert to state this! It’s a scam! Used on the court system because they don’t know any better!
When the key of the proper type is stated, it doesn’t tell us If it was the insured’s first key, second key or even a thief’s key! There is no differention or specifics. The report relies on the assumption by the investigator and by the court the last key used was the insured’s!
What does the expert have for evidence when testifying? The ignition lock or components? Nope!
Does he have documented proof that he electronically interrogated the transponder anti-theft system to confirm it was functioning properly? Nope! Can it be proven the anti-theft transposed system had how many keys programmed for it? Nope!
In fact, the criminal cases do not have anymore physical evidence than a civil case even though the criminal threshold is beyond any reasonable doubt! One might even say WTF?
It gets even better! The vehicle is commonly disposed of years before!
Normally, how is a defense expert to defend a case where the insurance expert had the opportunity to examine all facets to the vehicle and the defense expert is left with nothing?
They screw up so many other ways, I can refute them based on my experience. However, everyone is just supposed to take the insurance expert’s word for it. My question which is legitimate, why?
If one is dealing with a criminal case and the expert does not know which will go criminal, the standard for gathering and retention of evidence must be the same on every vehicle.
A criminal case means a crime scene! Every component requiring testimony needs to be secured. Yet, we have these so called experts that get away testifying on evidence they do not even have, nor did they retain it for the defense!
There are many that have been convicted just on the expert’s word without having physical evidence to support their testimony!
Now, I ask you, how would you feel to be railroaded like this because the insurance company did not want to pay your theft claim?
I am not blaming insurance companies. I am blaming these experts that know they are running a scam. I am blaming ignorant prosecutors trying to make a name for themselves.
Yes, there is insurance fraud out there, but proper evidence gathering and non-deceptive statements would go a long way.
Copyright 2018. Rob Painter