The Role of Criminal Defense Investigators in Prosecution
Criminal Defense Investigators is professional, independent experts who gather evidence and information for the defense in any criminal case. While the prosecution typically has several investigators (e.g., police detectives, prosecutors, and court-appointed agents) on staff, many defendants gamble without ever hiring even one investigator to interview witnesses and gather other pertinent information. Without an investigator, they do not know if they have reasonable doubt as to the accuracy of their claims or whether they should proceed with a case. Often defendants try to avoid trial by entering guilty pleas without fully understanding the consequences or paying the costs of a conviction. The investigation provided by an investigator removes doubt from the conclusion regarding guilt and ensures that the defendant receives a fair trial. This fact is usually lost when a case goes to trial without an investigator present.
In addition, criminal defense investigators follow up on potentially useful leads from law enforcement authorities. For example, an individual who sells stolen property often becomes a suspect after he or she sells a ring to an undercover officer. A witness who helps law enforcement identify the purchaser can provide crucial information that eliminates a lengthy trial and a strong conviction.
In many instances, criminal defense investigators listen to witness statements, conduct surveillance, and collect other pertinent information without advising a client. This can be risky because the attorney may later learn information that causes his or her client to be convicted of a crime he or she did not commit. For example, an individual who sells stolen goods may be implicated when an undercover cop observes him stealing the item. Should this information be provided to a lawyer, the client may be falsely accused of stealing the item in order to help cover his or her legal fees.
Many individuals wonder if they should hire a private investigator in the first place. After all, there are several high-priced criminal defense investigators who claim to perform “specialized” investigation work. However, not all investigators specialize in the same area of the law. An experienced private investigator can provide comprehensive and invaluable assistance to any client. In fact, many private investigators specialize in one or two areas of criminal justice.
The need for criminal defense investigators is most often felt by those charged with serious offenses. Indeed, the majority of people convicted of criminal offenses often receive jail time. Even the minimum sentence for most offenses is more than a year. For these individuals, pre-trial investigations can be extremely helpful. A private investigator will investigate the case from the time that the defendant is arrested, or even before he or she is taken into custody.
Private investigators possess many tools that are very similar to those employed by police detectives. These include the use of surveillance equipment and spy equipment. A criminal defense investigator can use a video camera to record any meetings that take place between the defendant and his or her attorneys or other representatives. If one of these meetings is held in private, without the presence of the defendants, the investigator will take photographs. He or she can then review the photographs, compile a report, and present it to the judge or jury. Private investigators are often referred to as “dirty cops.”
In many state and local jurisdictions, criminal defense attorneys have the authority and responsibility to conduct investigations of their clients’ cases. These investigations can be quite exhaustive. Some investigations will consist of the examination of a witness’s home or car, as well as visits to the homes and offices of potential targets. Sometimes investigators will interview former associates of the targeted individual.
One reason that many prosecutors rely on criminal defense lawyers is that the witnesses and suspects often will not speak out against their colleagues. This makes prosecuting the suspect quite difficult. Private investigators have been instrumental in convicting many repeat offenders, even though the witnesses and suspects themselves have not been accused of any wrongdoing. The testimony of such an investigator can make a very strong case for the prosecution.