Long before Martha “Dotty” Faul enrolled at Hodges University, she spent nearly 20 years building a career in law enforcement at both the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office and Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.
From working road patrol as a deputy sheriff to handling criminal investigations as a detective, Faul has seen and witnessed what many can only imagine. Sitting on the side of the law that is most susceptible to the negative and harsh realities of humankind, Faul retired in August 2009 and opened her own business, Justice Investigations Services, Inc., in 2010 as a way to offer her assistance to those in need.
While in the early stages of opening her business, she realized the importance a degree could provide in building her company. While working at Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, representatives from Hodges University (then known as International College) visited to discuss course offerings.
“I regret not taking them up on their offer then,” she laughed. “But when it came time to go back to school, I remembered Hodges, so I enrolled in the business school in 2009.”
After spending six months in the business program and working in sales on the east coast of Florida, Faul realized her talents were better suited for criminal justice, not business, so she switched degree programs, taking all of her classes online.
As an online student, she admits, “I really feel that I received more attention because the discussion boards allowed me the opportunity to speak, and the instructors were readily available. I didn’t have to worry about time running out at the end of a class and rushing to the front to ask the professor a question.”
Bringing her years of experience in law enforcement to her degree program, Faul realized how much of her professional work was focused solely on one area, and how the courses provided valuable insight into the vast arena that is criminal justice.
“The courses taught me about management, corrections and juvenile justice. I learned so much about the history of criminal justice and how different cultures approach criminal justice,” she said.
Earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice in 2012, she focused her efforts on building her business. She and her team of 20 investigative professionals work with the state of Florida to assist indigent people in the criminal justice system who cannot afford a legal defense. Working closely with lawyers, Faul and her team use their expertise to assist in gathering facts, evidence and information to build an effective case.
While the cases range from fraud to homicide to missing persons, Faul uses her expertise in lie detection and fraud to assist in the investigations; however, due to the nature of her business and its ties to the legal system, she once again turned to Hodges to further her education, only this time in legal studies.
“I spoke to Dr. [Char] Wendel, and she told me that legal studies is much different than criminal justice, but I’ve discovered that I love it, and the two really do go hand-in-hand,” she said.
Enrolling in the Master of Science in Legal Studies degree program in 2016, Faul admits the curriculum and assignments have enabled her to contribute to her business in an entirely new way. Learning about torts, compliance and case briefings, Faul is using the knowledge to help change the way she and her team can better assist their attorneys.
“Knowing how the law works helps you a lot more when you’re out on the street. If I know what is going to happen in the courtroom and why they need certain things, it’s going to make my case a lot better,” she explained. “Now, on the other side, I know what they should have done, so I can submit it to my attorneys to help them.”
With only weeks left before she graduates in December 2017 with her master’s degree, Faul looks forward to taking her knowledge and professional experience and expanding her talents in the realm of teaching.
“I have been through so many different things, and I want to give back some of that, and teaching is a great way to do it. To be able to share some of my experiences and share some of the knowledge I’ve learned and how to apply it – it would be very fulfilling to me.”