|Year : 2017 | Volume
| Issue : 4 | Page : 237-242
Analysis of indirect evidence in hit-and-run cases
Zhefeng Xu1, Chunhao Wang2
1 Guangzhou Public Security Bureau, Guangzhou, PRC
2 Key Laboratory of Evidence Science (China University of Political Science and Law), Beijing Public Security Bureau, Beijing, PRC
|Date of Web Publication||11-Jan-2018|
Dr. Chunhao Wang
Beijing Public Security Bureau, No. 90 Laiguangying West Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
For personnel handling cases in public security bodies, evaluation of evidence is key to discover the fact and then to settle disputes. The process of evaluation shall be confirmed to rules of logic. Rules of logic are a set of judgment rules for people to reflect, induce, and deduce the development of law worldwide. Thus, evaluation of evidence shall be built on objective and rational logic deduction. Rules of logic applied in the investigation and judgment of evidence can help in finding a direct or indirect link between the evidence and the facts of an accident, thereby providing support and assistance for accident identification. It is particularly necessary to apply rules of logic to evaluate the indirect evidence chain in the investigation of hit-and-run traffic accident cases. This article demonstrates the specific application of such rules in the investigation of a serious hit-and-run traffic accident case. In the investigation process through the comprehensive analysis of and logical thinking around all indirect evidence, such as site inspection data, video monitoring data, witness testimony, and expert conclusions, and the combining of this with the direct evidence of the parties' statements, a complete chain of evidence for identifying a suspect's vehicle and the accident facts can be formed. The effective application of rules of logic in the evaluation of the indirect evidence chain in hit-and-run traffic accident cases provides more clues and narrows the scope of an investigation, improving its efficiency and accuracy, thereby helping to identify the facts of an accident.
Keywords: Evaluation and application, hit-and-run, indirect evidence, rules of logic, traffic accident
|How to cite this article:|
Xu Z, Wang C. Analysis of indirect evidence in hit-and-run cases. J Forensic Sci Med 2017;3:237-42
| Introduction|| |
Hit-and-run behavior always puts victims at risk due to the lack of timely assistance, and in how, it makes it very difficult for public security bodies to collect direct evidence. Therefore, only the indirect evidence chain can be relied on to close such cases. It is clear that accurately identifying the facts of hit-and-run traffic accident cases depend on collecting indirect evidence promptly, judging, and reviewing it accurately. Rules of logic are commonly employed in the practice of screening, reasoning, and judging indirect evidence and combining it into an evidence chain. They often play a critical role in accurately identifying facts in such cases. By demonstrating an actual case, this article is mainly concerned with the construction of an indirect evidence chain in hit-and-run traffic accident cases through the application of rules of logic.
| Rules of Logic Applied in the Evaluation of Indirect Evidence Chain in Hit-and-run Traffic Accident Cases|| |
Meaning of indirect evidence in hit-and-run traffic accident cases
Indirect evidence refers to evidence which can only demonstrate the major facts in combination with other evidence instead of being taken as evidence of the principle facts independently. In hit-and-run traffic accident cases, it is quite a difficult task for public security bodies to collect direct evidence to prove the main facts of a traffic accident, meaning that they often have to predicate the final analysis on indirect evidence or other related facts. Thus, every piece of indirect evidence should be true and objective and in accordance with other indirect evidence and the main facts of cases. Therefore, it is, especially, important to apply rules of logic to evaluate indirect evidence in the investigation of hit-and-run traffic accident cases.
Types of indirect evidence
In hit-and-run traffic accident cases, the common indirect evidence is principally as follows: (1) Site inspection data: these are objective records compiled by investigators from case-related sites, objects, victims' bodies, and personal inquiries, including drawings, photographs, and videos that reflect the relative position between the accident scene and the road environment, vehicles, and objects. (2) Physical evidence data: these are objective items with their own attributes, characteristics, or conditions that help to prove the facts, including vehicles traces, fallout, and traumas on bodies that reflect the types of trauma and the features of evidence traces on vehicles and other objects. (3) Video monitoring data: this can reproduce the facts of the case that belong to the direct evidence category, whereas video surveillance data of the road before and after an incident belongs to the indirect evidence category. This can reflect the characteristics of passing vehicles, the passage of time, and changes in the order of things. (4) Testimony of witnesses: this refers to statements provided by persons who have a connection with the event. Their accounts may be true or false because witnesses may be restricted or influenced by various factors when providing testimony. When the contents of testimony are confirmed by other evidence, the probative force is strong. (5) Experts' conclusions: these are written opinions provided by people with specialized knowledge or skills, using scientific knowledge, technology, and skills after identifying, analyzing, and judging certain special problems in a case. Many links between physical evidence and the alleged facts rely on expert conclusions. In practice, a single piece of indirect evidence can only prove certain fragments of facts. Therefore, public security bodies need to review and judge the collected pieces of indirect evidence in detail and to carefully find associations between them.
Identification of indirect evidence
In hit-and-run traffic accident cases, various pieces of indirect evidence need to be connected by their inner logic relations to form a complete evidence chain with no gaps. Only using this chain to investigate, the facts of cases can we improve case-clearing efficiency. Therefore, the main focus should be on the following aspects of cases to affirm the indirect evidence:First, be careful with the correspondence of time and place according to the indirect evidence, namely, the mutual accordance of the time, order, and content of the main facts. Second, make sure, there is no contradiction between the pieces of indirect evidence. Third, the conclusions drawn from all the indirect evidence should be unique and exclusive.
Evaluation of indirect evidence chain
Forming evidence chain is one of the most important rules when we take advantage indirect evidence, that is, “if we need to determine a case completely relying on indirect evidence, each piece of related facts should be proved by corresponding indirect evidence, and all the pieces of indirect evidence should be linked together to form a complete evidence system. If a link is missed in the chain, it may cause a miscarriage of justice. Therefore, when we completely rely on indirect evidence to determine a case, it is necessary to conduct a comprehensive review of the whole case. Only when the indirect evidence chain is strong enough to draw a positive and exclusive conclusion can we make the final decision.” Therefore, the following aspects need to be noted when evaluating the indirect evidence chain:First, each piece of indirect evidence should be verified; second, the evidence should be associated with the alleged facts of the case; third, there should be no contradiction with other evidence; fourth, all the indirect evidence should be combined into a complete evidence chain; fifth, the conclusion should be unique and exclusive.
The role of indirect evidence in hit-and-run cases
Indirect evidence is a forerunner to detecting hit-and-run cases
It is difficult to collect direct evidence in hit-and-run cases. In some cases, nothing can be collected because the driver has driven away, the other party is dead, there has been no video monitoring, and there are no witnesses. In these circumstances, the investigation often starts with indirect evidence, and the facts can be discovered in a step-by-step process, for example, by delimiting the detection range and targeting the hit-and-run vehicle according to the vehicle's color, the degree of damage, the damage parts, the vehicle's characteristics, and the identity of and information on the scattered parts, avoiding a waste of human power, material resources, and time.
Indirect evidence can prove the authenticity of direct evidence
The principle characteristic of direct evidence is that it directly demonstrates the alleged facts, such as a witness's testimony, or the statements or defense of the parties. However, this type of evidence is easily affected by subjective factors. It is very possible to exaggerate, narrow down, or forge such evidence. What is more, the confessions of perpetrators are often evasive. To ensure the accuracy of a case, in practical terms, much indirect evidence has to be corroborated to review and judge the direct evidence. This is because a considerable amount of indirect evidence is material evidence, which is usually more objective and can be identified using scientific and technological skills.
A complete evidence chain of indirect evidence can also determine a case
In a hit-and-run case investigation, it is more complex and difficult to prove the facts with indirect evidence than to prove the facts with direct evidence. This does not mean that the probative force of indirect evidence is weaker than direct evidence. Indeed, while a single piece of indirect evidence cannot form the basis for a conviction, a complete and rational evidence chain with much integrated indirect evidence is strong enough to form a reliable conclusion and can be applied to determine a case. Therefore, the conclusions drawn from indirect evidence should have the same validity as the conclusions based on direct evidence.
Application model of rules of logic in the evaluation of indirect evidence chain in hit-and-run case
A single piece of indirect evidence often relates to a particular aspect of a case in an isolated and unilateral way, which sometimes does not explain the problem. However, if a number of such links are put together for logical analysis and reasoning, we can find substantial connections between them and a more complete reflection of the facts of the case. Therefore, in applying rules of logic to evaluate the indirect evidence chain of hit-and-run cases, one should use the following model:First, collect as much indirect evidence as possible; second, carefully review the authenticity of each piece of indirect evidence and identify its corresponding alleged facts; third, identify the logical links between the indirect evidence and the alleged facts so as to form an evidence chain; and finally, comprehensively evaluate the relations between the evidence chain and the alleged facts. [Figure 1] below demonstrates the model.
|Figure 1: Model chart for application of logic in the evaluation of an indirect evidence chain in hit-and-run cases|
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| Logic Rules Applied in the Indirect Evidence Chain of Hit-and-run Cases|| |
One day, Tang drove a green taxi (Car A) northbound along the airport highway. At 0:20 a.m., the car lost control and crashed into a cement wall, before he stopped on the motorway. Tang got out and went to the back of his car. At that moment, Zhao ran into Tang and Tang's green taxi Car A. Then Zhao drove away. Ten minutes later, Chen came by in Car B and collided into Car A because he did not have time to avoid it. After the incident, Chen got out of the car and found Tang lying unconscious on the motorway. On examining him, it was clear to Chen that Tang was seriously injured.
The application of rules of logic in the evaluation of the indirect evidence chain
The evidence evaluation in the site inspection
The public security body obtained the following evidence after a site inspection: (1) The front bumper of Car B had marks of a collision and the car's hood was buckled upward [Figure 2]. (2) Car A's side bumper had marks of a collision, and had yellow paint adhering to it; there were scratch marks on the right front side and the right rear subpanels of the car, with mud and cement traces adhering to the surface; the mid-part of the right side of the car was obviously dented, with the depth of the deepest dented part measuring 60 cm [Figure 3]. (3) The deepest dented section had small pieces of gray paint adhering to it [Figure 4].
|Figure 4: The deepest dented part of car a with traces of gray paint adhering to it|
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The evaluation of the indirect evidence of the spot inspection data showed the following: (1) Car B's scrape marks reflected how the collision force was slight. The condition of the engine and the fact that the windscreen was undamaged does not match a collision's normal impact profile. (2) The part of Car A to which yellow paint and gray cement was adhered reflects the fact that Car A collided with Car B and the cement wall [Figure 5]; but the deep dent in the mid-part of the right side of the car shows it collided with an angular object with a strong impact force (excluding the possibility of collision with a flat cement wall), and after careful observation, it can be ascertained that it was caused by a collision with a small passenger car.
|Figure 5: Scrape marks on the cement wall, which on the right side of car A|
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Relying on the above evidence, the public security body determined that there had been a third car (the hit-and-run car) in this case, and the suspect car seemed to be a gray, small passenger vehicle whose front parts should have obvious damage traces.
Evidence evaluation of video monitoring data
After reviewing the monitoring data of the video at the entrances to the incident section of the highway, the following evidence was obtained: (1) The monitoring data of the video at the nearest exit showed that Car C left the exit at 0:37 a.m. [Figure 6]. The picture quality was too poor to recognize the vehicle license plate number, but the number of the pass card could be checked. (2) Through tracing the number of the pass card, it was ascertained that Car C entered onto the motorway three kilometers away from the accident spot at 0:17 a.m. [Figure 7].
Evaluation of the evidence of the video monitoring data: (1) The video monitoring data of the entrance and exit time overlapped with the time and place of the accident, proving that Car C passed on that section of the road when the incident occurred. (2) The front of Car C appears to be significantly different between when it entered and left the airport expressway. The car appears normal when it first entered the airport highway but is obviously damaged when it exited it, indicating the car collided with something on the highway.
Evidence evaluation of the testimony of witnesses
The public security body found the suspect's car in the XX neighborhood, using the vehicle's registration information, but the suspect car has been repaired [Figure 8]. The public security body then investigated and questioned the suspect, the owner of the car. Zhao admitted that he had driven Car C on the airport expressway the night of the incident, but he did not give any details of the accident with the excuse that his mind had not been clear because he had been drinking. However, according to the testimony of his wife, who was sitting in the car the night of the incident, she saw how the front windscreen of the car collided with a black object, and then the front of the car collided with the car parked on the road. After the accident, Zhao drove away from the scene and he immediately repaired the damaged parts of the car as well as destroying the damaged parts afterward. In addition, Tang's friend Lee noted how he had received a call from Tang on the night of the incident. Tang asked for help in moving the car and said that his car could not move after he had been in a traffic accident on the airport highway.
Evaluation of the evidence of the testimony of witnesses: The content of the testimony must have relevance to the case. Testimony that is obviously irrelevant or has little relevance to a case cannot be used. In this case, although Zhao's wife as a witness is an interested party, her testimony has some relevance to the aspects of the case that we want to prove: (1) That Zhao was driving and collided with a black object (here, there is a need to combine this with other evidence to confirm what object) and a car. (2) That after the incident, Zhao drove the car away from the scene and destroyed the evidence. Besides that, we can deduce that after the first accident, Tang's mind was still clear and further infer that his serious injuries were formed at the accident after the first collision, according to the testimony of the witness, Lee.
Evidence evaluation of the expert conclusion
After extracting and doing a comparison test of the gray paint samples along with the attached gray fragment from Car A in the Judicial Identification Center, the results showed that the two sets of materials were the same. The extent of the fractures on Tang's left leg, left hip, and head amounted to serious injuries after judicial identification.
Evaluation of the evidence for the expert conclusion: The nature of an expert conclusion is opinion evidence, which does not equate to scientific evidence. Therefore, an expert conclusion should comprise a judgment along with comprehensive research of other evidence. Only when an expert conclusion overlaps with other evidence in an analysis, can it serve as the basis for a verdict. After making a comparison, it was clear that the sites of the fractures on Tang's left leg and left hip were a very good match with the areas of collision of the front bumper and the front hood of Car C. Moreover, the place and height of the injury on Tang's head were highly consistent with the damaged place and height of the car's windscreen [Figure 9].
|Figure 9: The condition of collided traces of the Car C highly matched with the condition of injury|
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Comprehensive evaluation of evidence
Combining the site inspection, the video monitoring, the witness testimony, and the expert conclusion, the public security body determined the following: (1) The vehicle whose owner fled the traffic accident was a gray car according to the site inspection; (2) Car C appeared to be the same vehicle according to video monitoring data; (3) according to the testimony of witnesses and the statements of the parties, it appeared that Zhao drove Car C that night and collided with an object and a vehicle at the airport expressway and that Zhao who was driving, fled the scene, and destroyed the evidence quickly; (4) the gray painted fragments attached to the damaged parts of Car A were as a result of the collision with Car C according to the expert conclusion; the fractures on Tang's left leg, left hip, and head were caused by the collision with Car C's front bumper, hood, and front windscreen. All of the indirect evidence collected formed a complete and multisupported chain of evidence; therefore, the public security body determined that Zhao, driving Car C had collided with Tang and then fled the scene. The case was successfully closed.
The public security body concluded that the Zhao should bear full responsibility for the collision with Tang and his vehicle and accept the consequences of the accident according to the law. It applied to the procurator to examine and approve the arrest of Zhao. Later, the court tried Zhao and ruled that he was guilty of the crime of a traffic accident in accordance with the law. As the facts were clear, the evidence was sufficient. In the absence of on-site video monitoring, the lack of witnesses, the evidence being destroyed, and the driver intentionally concealing the facts of the case, a major traffic accident case was detected through the timely collection of indirect evidence and the application of rules of logic, as well as a combination of the comprehensive research of evidence, screening, reasoning, and judgment. This also provides strong evidence for the court's penalty being an effective deterrent to traffic accident crimes.
| Conclusion|| |
It is usually hard to collect direct evidence to prove the facts in hit-and-run traffic accident cases as such cases display the prominent features of being sudden, hidden, and complex. They usually have very few witnesses and the physical evidence disappears quickly, so it is difficult to investigate and collect evidence and compare evidence traces. That is, in hit-and-run traffic accident cases, usually the accident facts can only be deduced from indirect evidence that has been collected and other related facts. However, we cannot deduce the accident facts relying only on individual indirect evidence. Only when a complete and coherent evidence chain is formed, can we successfully investigate a case. Therefore, the public security body's traffic management department should pay attention to the following matters in hit-and-run traffic accident cases: (1) Collect a certain amount of evidence that can form a timely and complete proof system to avoid the evidence disappearing or being destroyed overtime; (2) in the reviewing of indirect evidence, ensure that all the pieces of indirect evidence are verified each other logically, ruling out reasonable and inexplicable doubts; (3) in the reasoning process of the indirect evidence, use the rules of logic in a flexible, open, connected way, comprehensively judging the evidence through its relevance with the specific circumstances and the correlation between different pieces of evidence; (4) form a comprehensive written analysis report recording the process of indirect evidence collecting, reviewing, and logical reasoning to help the judicial personnel accurately evaluate the probative force of the indirect evidence chain, thereby contributing positively to the fight against hit-and-run actions in traffic accidents.
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Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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[Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7], [Figure 8], [Figure 9]