As a criminal attorney, one question that I am always asked is “How can a Defense Investigator help me? “. The answer to this question is simple. In any criminal case, there is the need for an investigator to determine the facts of the case. Whether the attorney believes there is a bias, error or misconduct by the police, the defense attorney will still need to know what is going on and if there is any possibility that the police acted inappropriately.
Many times an investigator from within the police department will be present at the scene of an incident. If not, there are private investigators that will be willing to spend the night with the police, drive around in their car and observe the parking lot. If the police do not have the evidence necessary to bring a case against someone they are involved with, then an investigator from within the law firm will review the case and determine what the police did and whether they should proceed with a case against that individual. This is a time consuming process but it is very important to protect the rights of individuals.
The second area where an investigator can be beneficial to an attorney is in witness protection. There are many individuals who are very scared to testify in a court of law due to the fact that they may be identified. Some attorneys have a policy whereby they will only allow their own attorneys to take on this type of case. These attorneys will be very familiar with the procedures that must be followed in order to keep the identities of confidential witnesses protected. There are some unscrupulous lawyers who will attempt to use loopholes in this policy to get a witness to change their story. If an investigator is present when a witness is called to a deposition, then they may be able to protect the identity of the witness.
Another thing that these attorneys may be able to do for an individual is present expert testimony. This is done when something cannot be proven. For example, if a drug manufacturer designs a drug that they believe will be effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease, but the FDA concludes that the product does not work, an investigator could present expert testimony in front of a jury of individuals who do not know anything about Alzheimer’s disease.
The third area that these professionals can help an attorney is in pre-trial litigation planning. Many times, attorneys have very specific time frames in which they want their cases settled. If an individual has already spent a large amount of time in jail for a crime they were arrested for or have committed a crime that is considered a felony, their chances of a favorable outcome are slim. These time constraints will often force criminal defendants to go to trial even if they do not have enough evidence to prove their innocence. Having detectives on staff to plan case strategies will give any attorney the best chance of winning a case.
The fourth area in which an investigator can help us during the pendency of a case. Once a case has been resolved satisfactorily, there is rarely a time when a case can be re-opened. Most criminal defense attorneys will try to find more clients, but this can be a very difficult and frustrating process. If there are any witnesses whose statements cannot be obtained, the criminal attorney may be forced to file motions to suppress evidence or to dismiss the case. This can have a very detrimental affect on a client’s future. By having a competent investigator on hand, a new lawyer can find out if there are any exculpatory witnesses who have been omitted from the initial testimony and can move to dismiss any other statements or testimony that are unfavorable to the client.
One final area in which having an investigator can help me is during a trial. After a trial, attorneys may be involved in keeping various records of the trial in order to prove their client’s innocence of the crime they are representing. This can be an extremely time consuming task, and it can also consume an investigator’s time as well. Even if a trial can be completed quickly, without a lot of paperwork, the lengthy process of maintaining all of the legal records can be a waste of time for both the defense and the prosecutor.
Having an investigator on my team allows me to ask relevant questions of the prosecution’s witnesses, and dig deeper into the case in order to find key issues or weaknesses in the evidence presented against my client. Even if the defense’s investigator does not uncover sufficient evidence to have my client’s case dismissed, the discovery he makes can significantly improve the quality of the defense case. It is important to note that discovery is often a prerequisite for getting a new trial, so it is important to start this process as soon as possible following the resolution of your current case.