A criminal investigation occurs when a crime has been committed and a government entity gathers and examines evidence, interviews victims and witnesses, and explores potential suspects.
Any government entity can conduct a criminal investigation. In fact, most federal agencies have criminal divisions that handle criminal investigations and prosecutions. Some common government entities are:
Attorney General’s office
Drug Enforcement Agency
Federal Bureau of Investigations
Central Intelligence Agency
What Happens During a Criminal Investigation?
A criminal investigation begins either when a crime has occurred or when law enforcement officials suspect a crime has occurred. First, a witness or complainant will report the crime to the police.
Next, a task force will be assembled, and each team member will be given a unique role. Most task forces contain detectives who do the brunt of the investigatory work. A detective is usually a senior investigator who has years of experience with handling evidence, interviewing individuals, and connecting evidence to perpetrators.
Third, the team will compile all known evidence. If the suspect is not immediately apparent, the team may then do a variety of different tasks. One such task is canvassing the area for any clues. Another task is interviewing witnesses or neighbors. Another might be dusting evidence for fingerprints or testing for DNA.
The team will use the evidence it has as a building block to discover more evidence. Often, the cumulative evidence will point to a suspect. Thanks to the evidence, the team will have probable cause to arrest the suspect. The team can bring their evidence to a magistrate judge and request an arrest warrant.
If the evidence does not lead to a suspect, the case becomes known as a cold case. In this scenario, the criminal investigation will usually become inactive and will be closed permanently when the statute of limitations for the crime has passed.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you suspect you are the target of a criminal investigation, you do not have the luxury of waiting. You need a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately. If you are arrested, you will be able to call your attorney and will not be required to answer any police questions.
An experienced criminal defense attorney will have the training and expertise to guide you through this difficult situation and advise you of your rights.