Criminal Defense Investigators is professional independent professionals that collect evidence and information for the defense in any criminal case. While most prosecutors have several investigators (e.g., police detectives, forensic experts, and trial attorneys) on staff, many defendants gamble with no hiring even one investigator. When a felony conviction is imminent, the temptation is to try to find a private investigator to represent them at their expense. However, this strategy can backfire against you if the investigator is too close to the case to provide good counsel.
Unlike witnesses or even expert witnesses, criminal defense investigators do not reveal much information about a case. They will not disclose whether they believe a client is guilty or not guilty. They will not disclose what methods they use to collect evidence or where they obtain it. Most of the time, they won’t reveal how they find hidden or unused evidence either. This makes them very difficult to trust.
Unfortunately, there is no national database that allows anyone to check to see whether criminal defense investigators have conflicts of interest. For instance, there are many cases in which criminal defense attorneys and law enforcement officers may work side by side to serve the same goal of convicting a suspect. Not only are they working side by side to pursue the same goal, they often have personal relationships. Some have children together, go on vacations together and socialize together. As a result, there are conflicts of interest in these types of cases that can be easily uncovered by spending some time researching the backgrounds of potential investigative partners.
One way to discover whether an investigator has a conflict of interest is to ask the prosecutor to give you a copy of any records they maintain regarding a case in which the investigator works. If any records are found, you should review them to determine if there are any obvious errors in judgment, omissions or unreliable data. You might also consider hiring a criminal defense attorney to conduct some of the witness interviews. The attorney will know how to ask questions of witnesses who may be more useful than a detective can. However, unless the attorney has the cooperation of the investigator, he or she will not have access to all of the witness information.
One of the major areas where criminal defense attorneys and investigators come into contact with each other is during witness interviews. These interviews allow criminal defense attorneys to get valuable information from a potential witness. Often times, there is a great deal of frustration with a witness that is not willing to speak with the investigator. Sometimes, the witness will just say whatever it is that they want to say without giving the investigator much useful information. But, by paying attention to the demeanor of the potential witness during the interview, the investigator can better use his or her information when the witness testifies.
Private investigators often work side-by-side with law enforcement investigators in various stages of a criminal case, from beginning to end. Although law enforcement officers are professionals, many former law enforcement officials become frustrated with the lengthy nature of some cases, which can take years to investigate. In addition, some former police officials are reluctant to discuss details of their past cases, because they feel that they could become a liability to the prosecution if they are called to testify in a criminal trial. Because private investigators are not law enforcement personnel, they are rarely disciplined by state boards for law enforcement officers or criminal defense investigators.
The state of Florida, for example, does not have an official board for private investigators. However, in order to retain the services of a private investigator in Florida, the person must first be approved by the state’s Department of Law Enforcement. The private investigator must be fingerprinted, pass background checks and obtain a court permit. Private detectives, who are permitted to practice in Florida may not disclose any confidential information about a person or a case if those details are required to protect the confidentiality of the investigation.
The state of Mississippi also does not have a regulating body, although it is one of the few states that require criminal defense investigators to be licensed by the state. MCSO, or Mississippi State Police, does not license private detectives. Private investigators in Mississippi may be referred to as “fishers” or “private detectives.” A state court may issue a temporary certification to private detectives once they have completed the requirements for state licensing. There is no specific training program for criminal defense investigators in Mississippi, although most private detectives who have been a part of a court ordered surveillance as part of a legal investigation will be well versed in the practices that are typical for their area of expertise.