Criminal Defense Investigators (CDFI) are legal professionals that gather evidence and information for a criminal defense attorney’s defense in any criminal case. While the prosecution usually has several agents (e.g., detectives, police officers, and prosecuting attorneys) on staff, many defendants simply gamble with the amount of time they have available to hire someone to investigate their activities. This is a grave mistake. It is the job of a CFIs to gather substantial proof on which to base a strong defense against any criminal charges. The investigation process begins by examining any and all forms of information regarding a possible crime.
In many cases, private investigators conduct surveillance on a suspect. In other cases, the private investigators communicate with the person suspected of committing the crime. CFIs can be employed to gather evidence implicating a suspect, but they are not allowed to make any statements to the extent of becoming an expert opinion or admit guilt. CFIs cannot tell a client whether they are guilty of a given crime.
Private detectives have an important role in the criminal justice system because without them, the law enforcement system as a whole would grind to a halt. Without CFIs on staff at the local county courthouse, legal proceedings may take far longer than necessary, with dire consequences to the defendant. Criminal defense investigators and private detectives use a wide range of surveillance tools to collect solid evidence against criminals. Among the most common surveillance tools employed by CFIs include video cameras, secret cameras, GPS tracking devices, and computer network activity.
To some, the use of secret spy cameras may seem intrusive. However, it is only a small fraction of the tools that private detectives utilize to keep the peace and uphold the law. In essence, all law enforcement personnel are part of a criminal defense investigative team. In some jurisdictions, such as Orange County, California, all police officers are required to complete the same training requirements as private detectives. The Orange County sheriff’s department and all other law enforcement personnel have a choice to complete the certification training provided by the National Association of Inspectors and Engineers (NAIA), or choose to receive Continuing Education (CE) credits through the American Society of Criminal Justice (AS CJA).
For their part, criminal defense attorneys serve the public by collecting evidence against alleged criminal offenders. They perform an ethical duty to investigate and advise clients on the basis of their knowledge and experience in the jurisdiction over which they operate. As investigative personnel, public defenders perform various tasks related to the preparation of court papers, including interviewing witnesses, collecting evidence, handling documents and presenting cases to the courts. Public defenders work closely with police officers as well as state and local law enforcement personnel.
As indicated earlier, most criminal defense investigators are required to obtain certification from one or more nationally recognized private investigator organizations. These nationwide recognized private investigator (PCI) organizations require their members to meet stringent educational and experience requirements before being allowed to participate in the organization’s investigation courses. Most nationwide recognized private investigator (PCI) organizations require their members to successfully complete an eight-hour examination during the certification course. Passing this examination requires that the candidates pass two written tests and one driving test. Once the candidates successfully complete the examination, they are then assigned to one of the many county public defender’s offices where they perform their investigation duties.
In Orange County, there are several public defenders’ offices. In most instances, criminal defense investigators work for the same attorney at one time. Attorneys are sometimes referred to as “case managers” or “pro bono” attorneys. Attorneys work together with PCI’s to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and prepare legal documents.
While most criminal defense investigators work on a contingency basis, some work on a hourly basis for the same public defender’s office. The majority of PCI’s serve all parts of the Orange County public defender’s office. Orange County public defenders have been saving money by using the services of private investigators instead of full time lawyers. In Orange County, there are many qualified, experienced, honest, caring, committed and dedicated criminal defense attorneys who can be easily located through the Internet. They are highly experienced and committed to the success of their clients.