I worked a case recently for a defense attorney whose client was arrested for stealing a vehicle. Apparently, the 50+ woman borrowed her daughters newly bought, used car to go to a local convenience store. This store is a national, gas/convenience store with a large parking lot and several gas pumps. When she exited the store she got into her daughters car and began to drive home. At least she thought it was her daughters car.
About a half mile down the road, a “black-n-white” got in behind her and lit her up (blue lights, of course). The cops ordered Nana out of the car and locked her up for stealing the motor vehicle. As diligent as any private investigator would be, I interviewed anybody who was willing to talk to me: the defendant, her daughter, even the cops who stopped her. Of course, the police patrol supervisor refused to talk to me which I was expecting. Ultimately, it was the patrol supervisors’ decision to send poor Nana to the clink!
Then the coup de gras: the all important surveillance footage. I dressed in my finest suit, showered and shaved and made my way to the manager's office of the convenience store. I introduced myself as a private investigator and asked whether I could view the camera footage from the day in question. The manager, as pleasant as he could, told me he could not authorize its release and I needed to contact the corporate office. From my car still parked in the lot, I spoke to a pleasant woman in the loss prevention department and explained my situation. After hearing my plight, she allowed me access.
After viewing the surveillance video I saw my 50 year old client enter the store, make her purchases and exit through a different door. Disoriented from approaching her “daughters” car from another angle, she entered a Camry that looked identical to hers. She found the keys in the center console, just where she had left them, started it up and was on her way. Coincidentally, the victim also thought it was a good idea to leave the keys in the cup holder.
In the end, the defense attorney showed the judge the surveillance footage on a motion to suppress and the case was dismissed. So, for all those rookie PI’s still learning the ropes, a good rule of thumb is to always look for the video evidence.