It takes years of training to develop the research and litigation skill to become an attorney. Even the best attorneys may sometimes find themselves without the time or resources to find the information they need to win in the courtroom. For this reason, many lawyers hire private investigators to help with criminal defense cases and in civil litigation. For a fraction of what a law firm might pay a new associate, a law firm can hire a private investigator to conduct much of the legal legwork.
One of the most important reasons lawyers hire private investigators is to assist with criminal defense. While lawyers are excellent at building a court case, most lawyers don’t have the time or expertise to conduct a field investigation. A good defense investigator is skilled at analyzing data, applying statutory law and case law, and will understand the rules of preserving evidence.
A private investigator can also locate evidence that may have been overlooked or outright withheld by the prosecutor’s side.
How can there be other evidence? Don’t the police collect everything?
In a criminal case, many people mistakenly believe the prosecution will collect and present all the available evidence. In reality, law enforcement and the prosecution will collect only what evidence is necessary to secure a conviction.
By law, the prosecutor must share with the defense attorney all the evidence collected for the case. Sometimes law enforcement will recognize only evidence that confirms their theory of the crime. Anything not relevant to the goal of convicting the accused will either be ignored or simply left uncollected.
How can a defense attorney build an adequate defense when they use only the evidence gathered by law enforcement? The answer is they can’t.
A private investigator working as part of the criminal defense team can find new witnesses, find inconsistencies in the accounts of reported witnesses, and can point out discrepancies in the law enforcement reports. A PI can also re-examine a given crime scene to get a different perspective from what was reported by law enforcement.
Some other reasons lawyers hire private investigators may include:
Known witnesses can sometimes be hard to find because they have moved, changed cell phone providers, or are simply not responding to phone calls. Previously unknown witnesses might be revealed by conducting thorough and effective interviews of the known witnesses. A private investigator can do skip tracing to locate hard to find witnesses and can interview new witnesses who are revealed through the course of an investigation.
Obtaining Video or Photo Evidence
Surveillance is one of the “bread and butter” activities of any private investigator. Video surveillance is often very instrumental in child custody and infidelity cases, insurance fraud, and employee theft or workers compensation. Video and photographs are compelling evidence that can both be nearly impossible to refute. Private investigators have the skill and patience to capture relevant video and photo evidence, all while remaining undetected.
Finding Hidden Assets
Unfortunately, marriages and business partnerships sometimes end in bitter disputes. In either situation, one party might attempt to gain advantage by hiding assets. One party may sell assets for ridiculously low prices or put other family members on the titles of various assets, all to prevent the other party from winning a large judgement. A private investigator can help to locate missing or undeclared property, hidden financial accounts, and track the movement of property from one supposed owner to another. Locating these assets can greatly affect the final ruling in a civil case.
Lawyers hire private investigators to conduct background checks on potential clients, witnesses, and the opposition in civil and criminal cases. A background check may delve into criminal records, employment history, civil records, personal references and education records. Contrary to popular belief, attorneys will not simply work for any person that comes through their door. A lawyer will want to know if they can really help the potential client and if the lawyer’s time is worthwhile investment for the client. A thorough background check can reveal valuable information to negotiate a quick settlement or information that is critical to win a given case. PI’s use private databases that are only available to the licensed investigators. PI’s can also use open source data such as social media and public records searches to dig into a person’s background.
A private investigator should be a valued member of any legal team. Because of their specialized analytical and investigative skills, private investigators can help a lawyer more quickly and effectively build their client’s case.
H7 Investigative Services conducts private investigations in Santa Clarita, Antelope Valley, and throughout the greater Los Angeles area.
If you want to find out how our agency can help with your criminal defense case, click through to our consultation request page or call us at (661)454-7513.