Criminal Defense Investigators is usually private, independent professionals who collect evidence and information for a criminal defense lawyer’s case. While the prosecution often has several active investigators (i.e. police detectives, forensic scientists, and criminal lawyers) working on their cases, many defendants gamble without even hiring one. They trust that the professionals working for their attorney will investigate and gather evidence and statements from witnesses to present their case against the defendant.
Often, the criminal defense attorneys work in tandem with other professionals from the justice system like police, public defenders, and forensic scientists. Together, they try to prove the innocence or guilt of the defendant. In this process, criminal defense investigators can play a vital role.
While police are entrusted with gathering evidence to solve crimes, public defenders are charged with adhering to legal proceedings and defending the accused. They are the ones responsible for interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence for prosecutors to use in court. Together, they attempt to prove the defendant innocent using different techniques, such as interviewing suspects, checking possible DNA samples, and checking for discrepancies between statements and physical evidence. The goal of criminal defense investigators is to provide overwhelming evidence to their clients and public defenders that help them build successful cases.
Aside, from interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence, criminal defense investigators also conduct secret investigations. The main purpose of these is to expose the schemes of the opposing party to foil them before the trial. These investigations can be either a hit and run or a sting operation. In a hit and run investigation, a criminal defense investigator will follow a trail of bread to reveal hidden treasure, and in a sting operation, the investigators go to a target and expose his wrongdoing. This type of undercover investigation is more common in complex crime cases involving money laundering or other serious white collar crime.
The majority of professional investigators start out by becoming associates with an attorney. This is usually referred to as an “introduction”. Once an investigator becomes a member of an attorney’s firm, he or she will be given the authority to handle any and all matters concerning the case as requested by the attorney. Working closely with an attorney allows criminal defense investigators to gather vital information that cannot be accessed by other professionals. Because an investigator spends more time with their attorney, the attorney can ensure that all details of the case are handled appropriately.
Sometimes criminal defense investigators may be required to utilize financing options in order to pursue cases that are not typical of their practice. Typically, members of the legal defense team will work with private detectives and/or investigators who belong to a law firm or agency that works on a per case basis. Members of this financing institution are often knowledgeable about advances made by the local or state prosecuting attorney’s office to finance legal representation for indigent defendants. In some instances, the financing institution will work closely with the individual law firm or agency that employed the investigator in order to make certain that the investigative service is provided in full accordance with their agreements. In these circumstances, if the financial institution does not ultimately provide the client with a sufficient amount of funding to employ the investigative personnel, the law firm or agency may in turn assign the representative to another case.
In other situations, criminal defense investigators may need to use Forensic Evidence in support of their clients’ legal team. Generally, when utilizing Forensic Evidence in support of the legal team, it is important that the legal team and the investigator fully understand the procedures and protocols involved in the testing of the Forensic Evidence. Failure to fully learn the importance of collecting the appropriate evidence can have severe consequences both directly and indirectly to the legal team.
Currently, there are two current Certifications that criminal defense investigators may need to be certified in. The first Certification is the Certified Criminal Investigator (CDDI) designation and the second is the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). Currently, there are no requirements that criminal defense investigators obtain additional certifications other than the CDDI designation. If you are an aspiring forensic investigator, however, it is important to be very well-informed about the different certifications in order to make sure that you receive the most benefit from your education and training. This information is available through a variety of sources on the internet including, but not limited to, the Human Resources Department at the local state police office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Association of Inspectors, the National Security Agency, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and several other similar websites.