Certified Criminal Defense Investigator
Criminal Defense Investigation is the most rewarding
area an investigator can be involved in.
Itís important work. There
are a number of civil cases that we work, and they are important, but
most of them have to do with money.
Criminal defense cases involve something much more important than
money. They involve liberty.
carefully planned and proper defense investigation in a criminal case
can lead to a number of favorable results.
The best result, of course, is proof that the client is innocent
of the charge. That is the
ultimate goal. The next
best result is evidence. The
criminal defense investigator must look at developing evidence, which
may create reasonable doubt among the jurorís as to the clientís
guilt. The evidence may
show that the client is guilty, but of a lessor degree of the crime
charged. The defense
investigation may also show that the clientís constitutional rights
conducting a criminal defense investigation, the investigator must be
knowledgeable of police procedures, interview techniques, and, most of
all, the investigator must be prompt.
In most cases it is important that the investigator start the
case as soon as possible after the charges are brought against the
client. Things change in criminal cases and they can change quickly.
The crime scene changes, physical facts change, the site of
pertinent events change, or moves or is replaced.
An object of importance may be discarded or destroyed.
Witness may move or forget.
been involved in criminal defense investigation for many years and still
find them to be interesting, challenging and certainly personally
rewarding. I once worked as
an investigator for the prosecutorís office and it was challenging
work, but nothing like criminal defense.
Our system of justice demands that the government acting for the
people prove that a person committed a crime.
That same system applies to the defense.
It is our duty to work as hard as we possibly can to prove our
investigator who is not a former law enforcement officer can certainly
still be quite effective in defense investigations, although he/she will
have to spend some time studying police procedures.
There is knowledge that an investigator just must have in order
to do the work properly.
example, when first meeting the client/defendant, you must know the
proper way to interview a person. Itís
completely different from interviewing someone who might be coming to
you for help in an accident case.
are two basic methods for the first interview with a criminal
all of the details from the defendant/client.
you first meet the defendant, heís scared and suspicious, especially
if heís incarcerated. You
want to get all of the details from the defendant concerning all of the
charges against him and the details of the arrest.
to the client what your function is.
Let him know that your job is to help him by assisting the
attorney to build a strong defense case.
Do your best to put the client at ease before talking about the
investigatorís role is not to counsel the client. The attorney would have advised him of his rights with regard
to trial and the legal methods. The
investigator must be very careful not to undermine what the attorney has
said, and not to promise things which the attorney may not be able to
deliver. Thatís why it is
so important for the attorney and the investigator to work closely
together so those prospective roles are clearly identified.
The investigator must know what to say to the client and what not
the investigator has gotten acquainted with the client, itís time to
get the clientís story. Itís
a good practice to let the client tell the story in his own way the
first time around. Sometime
itís good not to write anything down while heís telling his story
the first time. After the story is told, the investigator should get it down
on paper by having the client go over everything again slowly.
The investigator will take notes and ask questions.
The investigator wants a full chronology of the clientís
involvement in the case, including all police activities known to him.
When questioning the client the investigator must be sure to try
to determine whether all the legal elements of the charge against the
client are made out in the clientís version.
The client should be asked to tell in chronological order what he
did and what the authorities think he did.
The investigator must cover the Who, What, When, Where, Why and
How of the case with the client. The
investigator should ask the client what happened to him, who was
involved, when, and how he was arrested and everything that the police
have done with him since his arrest. If the client denies involvement, details should be obtained
about where the client was and what he was doing and alibi witnesses
regard to arrest, particular attention should be given to getting all
possible information from the client as to the arrest procedure and
anything said by the client at any time prior to the arrest, during the
arrest and after the arrest. The
investigator wants to know if the client made any kind of statement to
the police, and whether he signed anything.
Was the client advised of his rights?
What did the police ask him?
And, if he was advised of his rights, did he waive them.
Did the client sign a waiver form?
As a final point, before the investigator leaves the client at
the first interview, he should reinforce no doubt what the attorney
already told the client, and that it not to talk to anyone including
fellow inmates about the case.
investigator will need to obtain all of the police reports.
Examine the crime scene and take photographs.
Examine the prosecution evidence to determine its validity. In
addition, the investigator should examine every police report or
document no matter how insignificant it may appear to be.
Those examinations will give the investigator the total picture
of the case from the police viewpoint, and will enable him to more
easily identify inconsistencies, which can then be pointed out to the
attorney. The investigator
will next have a meeting with the attorney.
Often this meeting will occur before the investigator first sees
the client and sometimes not until after.
This meeting will focus on theory of defense and case strategy.
investigator as he works through the case must be alert to recognizing
which facts suggest a preferable theory.
He must go to the sources of information relevant to the defense
theory. Tracking down those
sources are important and he must gather all information potentially
important to the case.
possible theories of defense depending on the case are: alibi,
entrapment, self-defense, someone else did it, incompetent (insanity,
mental defect, intoxication).
facts of the case and the strengths and weaknesses of the
prosecutionís position will generally dictate the theory of defense.
It will normally be based on the innocence of the defendant or
the violation of one or more constitutional guarantees which are due the
the investigator and attorney have developed a working theory of defense
and have discussed case development strategy, the investigator should
move toward gathering defense evidence.
want to interview all witnesses who may have information about the case,
including prosecution witnesses.
play an important part in criminal cases.
Some people donít know that itís all right for you to talk to
someone from the other side, like a defense investigator. Once theyíve been interviewed by the police, or perhaps an
assistant state attorney, theyíre left feeling that they arenít
suppose to talk with anyone from the other side.
In fact, witnesses do not belong to one party in any civil or
defense attorney through his investigator has a right to interview any
witness or potential witness who may have information relative to his
clientís case. The
defense investigator must be aware of the possibility that a reluctant
witness may be refusing to talk to anyone from the defense side because
he was advised not to do so by a police officer.
Sometimes what happens is a police officer will have a witness
believe he should get the officerís or state attorneyís consent
before talking to a defense representative. That, of course, is not the case.
a witness is reluctant to talk to a defense investigator because of his
own feelings in the case, sometimes that witness will allow an interview
if it is courteously pointed out to him that the duty of every citizen
in this country under our system of fairness and justice is to be as
fair and objective as possible, and that includes telling what he knows
to the defense as well as the prosecution.
Quite often the personality of the investigator will help gain
that cooperation from witnesses.
possible, the investigator should get a signed statement from the
adverse witness who has some information to help the defense. Itís not always possible to do that, of course, but the
attempt should be made.
witnesses will usually be identified either by the defendant (the
client) or by police reports. And,
of course, it will be left to the talents of the investigators to find,
identify and locate witnesses that will be helpful to the defense.
defense investigator must be very thorough and careful when
investigating cases which rely on alibi witnesses.
Be certain that you and your attorney are not being set up by
false witnesses whose story will fall apart in court to the
embarrassment of your attorney, not to mention the sure conviction of
your client. Some clients
will lie to you. Some will
make up an alibi story with false witnesses in the belief that itís
the only way out of the charges. Find
You certainly have a very high duty to your client to help
provide the best possible defense. But you also have a duty to your attorney to provide him with
the results of intelligent and honest work.
And part of that responsibility is to not let him unknowingly
become involved in some illegal scheme or maneuver.
the areas discussed - - defendant, police report, witnesses - - prove
fruitless or inadequate for good witness leads, the investigator must
visit the scene as quickly as possible and attempt to contact any person
who might be remotely connected to the incident or have information
which may be helpful to the defense.
This canvassing work is time consuming and often frustrating, but
itís important. No stone can be left unturned when it comes to providing a
good defense for your client. Any
person in this country must be given every legitimate opportunity to
defend himself against charges which could take away his liberty.
that you owe an extremely high duty to your attorney and your client.
If the investigator makes the effort to build and develop the
expertise in determining what is important in criminal defense
investigations and what really will help the defense effort, he can be
an extremely valuable asset to attorneys practicing criminal law.
Ross heads the Jake Ross Detective Agency, P.O. Box 1025, Daytona Beach,
Florida 32115, phone
904-258-8709, email Jross29314@aol.com.