Criminal Defense Investigations
The six components of criminal defense investigation are:
1. Investigative Case Review & Analysis
2. The Defendant Interview
3. Crime Scene Examination, Diagrams & Photography
4. Victim/Witness Background Investigations
5. Witness Interviews & Statements
6. Investigation Report & Testifying
Legendary attorney Melvin Belli once said, “If your investigator is good enough, most any lawyer will do.” That’s a bit of hyperbole, but there’s no question that hiring the right investigator really can make you a winner.
A criminal defense investigator plays an important role on your criminal defense team. He or she will assist the criminal defense attorney in preparation for trial, including gathering records and interviewing witnesses. Having a diligent, experienced criminal defense investigator is crucial!
By immediately retaining a good criminal defense investigator, you can ensure that your team will also hit the ground running.
According to noted criminal defense attorney F. Lee Bailey, "An adequate defense cannot be prepared without the assistance of an investigator."
Whenever possible, the investigation by your defense team should be as thorough as the prosecutor’s investigation. In a criminal case, the prosecuting attorney diligently looks for incriminating evidence in order to convict you. It is equally important that your criminal defense team explore all the strategies it can to uncover exculpatory evidence that will help to clear you. The goal of your criminal defense team is to work toward getting you acquitted of the charges that are being brought against you.
The prosecution is stacked with “investigators,” from police officers to investigators specifically employed by the prosecution.
Investigators are sometimes former members of law enforcement and sometimes people with legal training. Or they may come from an entirely different background. They’re charged with many tasks, including public (and sometimes private) record searches, locating and interviewing witnesses, and preparing reports. While defense attorneys can and do sometimes handle some of these tasks, they often have neither the time nor expertise of investigators. A good investigator isn’t simply a good locator of information, but also someone who excels at creating a rapport with others and getting them to open up.
The police can be of great service to prosecutors when it comes to finding witnesses to a crime and to following the evidence to a suspect. However, sometimes the defense is going to realize that there may be key evidence missing or witnesses that have not come forward.
However, in order to determine that their assumptions about their client's innocence are correct, they will need to conduct a criminal defense investigation.
A private investigator serves an important role in a criminal defense investigation. In this case, that role is to find witnesses and evidence that will establish reasonable doubt – that will show that there is reason to believe that the defendant is not actually responsible for committing the crime.
When an attorney uses a private investigator in a criminal defense investigation, that investigator will take the time to understand the charges and the laws that relate to the crime. Once there's an understanding of the case in question, the private investigator will go over all of the materials that the defense team has received from the prosecutor.
During the course of the criminal defense investigation, the private investigator will go through routine reports from the police, everyday paperwork as well as copies of evidence, photographs, phone messages and witness statements related to the case. The goal of this is to determine whether or not there are any inconsistencies from one witness to the next or between the conclusions drawn and the evidence.
In addition, during a criminal defense investigation, a private investigator may re-visit the crime scene to see if there was anything that had been overlooked. He or she may also interview witnesses to see if their stories have changed or to verify that they do not have anything else that motivated their statements against the defendant.
Inconsistencies and ulterior motives that a private investigator discovers during the course of a criminal defense investigation may be able to be used as a part of the client's defense. Similarly, if during the course of the criminal defense investigation a private investigator discovers that there are other witnesses who had not come forward or evidence that was not considered previously, he or she can then look into these developments further.
In some cases, that may mean that a search is conducted to find these other witnesses. In other cases, it may mean conducting interviews or doing background searches. In others, there may be other parts of the criminal defense investigation that are assigned to a private investigator – tasks that he or she is uniquely qualified for and that will keep the defense team free to focus on the legal proceedings and other cases that they have.
During the course of a criminal defense investigation, a private investigator can help to ensure that an innocent client will not be found guilty – all without taking away from a defense attorney's busy schedule. In other words, bringing a private investigator into a criminal defense investigation, defense attorneys are able to focus on the court system while a private investigator conducts the investigation.
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