Photography illustrating your case report can strengthen your case and corroborate your narrative.
Traditional definitions of “evidence” include the ideas, “to make evident, something that makes plain or clear, data presented in court in proof of the facts.” (Dictionary.com) If a picture is “worth a thousand words,” and if the definitions above are some of the ways that we define the term “evidence,” then I would like to suggest some perhaps new ways that we can use this vital unappreciated tool.
The idea that the only time that one takes pictures is when there is a need to document a broken window, skid marks, vehicle damage, wounds, or injuries needs to be revisited, especially at the “patrol level.” Photography or digital imaging can certainly be an effective tool to document “evidence” that can save you time and effort down the road.
Those of you who stop vehicles for equipment and safety violations probably spend a great deal of time writing out a three paragraph description of the violations that initially caused you to stop the vehicle, and the subsequent violations that you discovered (Figure 1). If, down the road you need to defend your stop and the reasons you took an enforcement action doesn’t it make sense to have a photo or at least three to back up your observations and narrative report.
Instead of trying to create a word picture on the witness stand to help the judge or jury to “see” what you saw, why not let them do just that—see what you saw; because after all, seeing is believing right? Having photographs to supplement testimony regardless of the case is like conveying the message to the judge or jury that “you don’t need my testimony, have a look for yourselves.” And if you stop and think about it, the proverbial “picture is worth a thousand words,” is also worth at least 45 minutes of direct, cross examination, and re-direct testimony in court when you could be enjoying your day off.