Criminal Defense Investigators Have Many Skills
What exactly is the role of a criminal defense investigator? In a typical criminal case, the prosecution presents their version of events, and then there’s the witness testimony to support it. Once fighting criminal charges, often the key role of an investigator is to find out the actual evidence which proves the other side of the tale. They do this by performing thorough investigations and speaking with witnesses. Here’s how they work.
Often, criminal defense investigators are called upon to provide testimony in court. They’ll speak with a defendant or victim about any encounters they had with the person charged. In many cases, they’ll discuss details of any contact with the suspect. This can include specific times and locations, as well as details about the people involved (such as a code name or nickname). The goal is to provide evidence which tends to negate the presence of any evidence against the defendant.
investigators don’t just go to the scene of a crime to interview witnesses. Some public defenders and police officers also receive help from criminal defense investigators. Private investigators consult with public defenders and police officers when a suspect has been arrested. Often, private investigators and public defenders have a good relationship and are willing to work together.
Many states have their own system for investigating crimes. Training programs are required for criminal defense investigators to practice within those states. The National Association of Criminal Defense Investigators (NACDI) offers nationwide recognition. Their website includes helpful information for contacting them, as well as state laws. In addition, NACDI offers national criminal justice conference proceedings and seminars for all criminal defense attorneys and investigators.
Most private investigators are employed by the government. The FBI and other federal law enforcement investigators frequently conduct surveillance in anticipation of a criminal case. These agents often use confidential sources in the investigation of crimes. However, many private investigators specialize in working with prosecutors and the prosecution. They can obtain court documents and do background investigations on the basis of information provided by the prosecutor.
As a former prosecutor, I had known one of our highly successful criminal defense investigators who worked directly for the Assistant US Attorney. As a former colleague stated: “She routinely asked me what was going on with the Perrons case and always returned with impeccable documentation.” This was an extremely accurate description of her work. Perron certainly enjoyed a close relationship with this investigator. I have known other investigators who worked directly for the prosecution while at the same time working with a private investigator.
Private detectives often interview witnesses. They even interview suspects. If a defendant or a suspect’s attorney fails to attend their preliminary hearing, most investigators will continue to interview potential witnesses. In some jurisdiction, it is not necessary for a criminal defense investigator to interview all witnesses. Often, only a small group of detectives are requested to interview a witness. Again, this is common practice with sensitive cases such as child molestation and murder.
Unfortunately, if a crime has been committed or an accused has been tried, no one ever hears from the victim unless there is a perjuries report. Unfortunately, too many times innocent people are convicted of crimes they did not commit due to ineffective cross examination by the prosecution’s witnesses. Private detectives that properly document their interviews are very important in ensuring a proper due process analysis for each case.
Many times when dealing with overwhelming evidence against a defendant, a criminal defense investigator will take a new lead that he/she has not previously tracked down. A good detective will work diligently to find any additional evidence to present in court. This type of detective work is called digging for more evidence. Sometimes a witness will change their story, say they saw something different or heard something different from their own voice. These investigators will dig even deeper to find the additional evidence.
The same thing goes for testimonies from any other sources. Often times there is no physical way to verify what another witness says. A good investigator will carefully review all of the testimony to make sure it is reliable. Once all the facts have been reviewed, an investigator can decide whether or not to present any new evidence in court. Often times, a witness will say they saw something that does not really match up to the other witness statements.
In some cases a witness may say they saw or heard something that did not happen the way the witness stated it happened. In these cases it is not necessarily worth spending the time and money on a case. Often times a private investigator can use their training and experience to convince the courts to use their witness statements against the defendant. Many times the best way to beat a case is by using contradictory witnesses and contradictory police reports. Again, these are the skills of a good investigator that work in many different fields of law.