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Why Criminal Defense Lawyers Hire Private Investigators?

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | Aug 21, 2023

Let's review the importance of hiring a private investigator for your California criminal defense case because facing a criminal charge can be a daunting experience.

Depending on the nature of the crime and the case facts, a conviction could lead to significant penalties, including fines, probation, incarceration, and a criminal record.

Due to the high stakes involved, a good California criminal defense attorney will seek to do more than just come up with arguments to refute the evidence that the prosecution presents against you—they will want a similar investigation conducted on your side of things to give you every possible advantage when mounting a defense.

Why Criminal Defense Lawyers Hire Private Investigators?
Criminal defense lawyers often hire private investigators to play a crucial role in their case.

Since attorneys don't always have the time to perform these investigations, they typically hire a private investigator (PI) to do the footwork for you.

Police detectives will look for clues and evidence to determine whether a crime has actually occurred. If a crime was committed and they have reason to believe you were involved, they will start looking into your background.

Their criminal investigation seeks to collect and gather evidence to build a case against you. They will try to obtain evidence through several different investigation techniques. Thus, hiring a professional investigator to work on your behalf could be crucial.

Regardless of a defense lawyer's skill and experience, it's often challenging to efficiently keep up with all their work, especially when working on multiple cases simultaneously. They sometimes must outsource some of that time and expertise in their client's best interest.

A private investigator can serve a critical, crucial role in a criminal defense investigation by working to find witnesses and evidence that might establish reasonable doubt that the defendant was not responsible for the crime.

Why Is Hiring a Private Investigator Important?

Let's discuss below why hiring a PI is essential to a robust defense.

Unearthing Crucial Evidence 

Private investigators specialize in gathering evidence, a critical aspect of any defense strategy. They employ state-of-the-art technology and tried-and-true methods to uncover facts that can support your case.

Why Is Hiring a Private Investigator Important?
A private investigator might be able to uncover some evidence to help the defense team.

A PI can delve deeper into the incident, find overlooked details, and locate witnesses that law enforcement may have missed.

Finding Details That Were Initially Overlooked

Private investigators are trained to take the time to understand the charges associated with a specific crime when a lawyer uses them in a criminal defense investigation. Once they understand the case, they will review the materials (discovery) the defense team has received from the prosecutor.

Throughout the investigation, the private investigator will closely review police reports, evidence, pictures, and witness statements, with a goal being to determine whether there are any inconsistencies.

Further, the PI could visit or recreate the crime scene to see if any details might be overlooked. They might decide to interview witnesses to see if their stories have changed or to verify their statements.  If the private investigator uncovers any inconsistencies or wrong motives, it could be used by the defense lawyer.

Finding Witnesses

In addition to gathering evidence, private investigators are experts at finding people. They use their vast network of contacts to locate potential witnesses, interview them, and get sworn statements in preparation for trial.

They will also track down hard-to-find people who may have knowledge of the case and can perform background checks on witnesses to determine their credibility, which could be pivotal during trial proceedings.

Seeking Accessible Records

As part of their investigations, PIs often seek out public records that could help strengthen their defense. They are adept at obtaining and examining records from various sources, such as police reports, medical documents, business registrations and contracts, employment records, and more. Access to these documents can be invaluable in constructing a compelling argument for your case.

Comprehensive Background Checks

A PI can conduct thorough background checks on key individuals involved in the case. These checks can reveal critical information about the individuals involved in the case.

This can include prior criminal records, personal habits, character references, or any other relevant information that could influence the jury's perception of credibility. Background checks can also potentially reveal inconsistencies or biases that could be leveraged in court.

Surveillance and Documentation

Surveillance may sometimes be necessary to establish facts or create reasonable doubt. Private investigators are trained in surveillance techniques and similar covert operations within legal boundaries, all of which can prove instrumental in gathering real-time evidence. This can range from tracking a person's movements to documenting interactions that could be pertinent to your defense.

Expert Testimony
A PI could provide expert testimony at trial which might carry significant weight in court.

Expert Testimony

PIs often have a wealth of experience and knowledge in specific areas of investigation. They can provide expert testimony, which carries significant weight in court. For instance, a PI with expertise in digital forensics could present crucial evidence about data tampering or cybercrime.

Saving Time and Resources 

Although highly skilled, legal teams are often stretched thin with numerous cases to handle simultaneously. A private investigator dedicated to your case will have the time and resources to delve deeper.

They can dedicate themselves to extensive fieldwork, data collection, and analysis, providing your legal team with comprehensive and timely information that could prove pivotal in your defense. Their investigative findings can also guide your attorney's strategic planning, helping them construct a robust and compelling defense.

Can a Private Investigator Provide an Objective Analysis?

Perhaps most importantly, a PI provides a more objective approach when examining the evidence for your case. Maintaining objectivity can be challenging on both sides in the often emotionally-charged atmosphere of a criminal defense case.

A private investigator is a neutral third party with no personal stake in the outcome. This detachment allows for an unbiased examination of the evidence, ensuring that all leads are followed and all stones are turned, regardless of where they may lead. This accomplishes three important goals:

  1. It provides an essential check-and-balance on the prosecution's investigation. Your PI's footwork may uncover procedural errors, biases, and other flaws in the prosecution's evidence against you.
  2. It may reveal previously unknown evidence. This critical information can make the difference in getting you exonerated.
  3. It may confirm damning evidence against you. The PI's findings may serve to confirm the prosecution's claims. While this sounds scary, this information is crucial for your legal team to evaluate as they shape their defense strategy on your behalf.

The fees of private investigators will vary depending on many different circumstances, such as the location and type of services required.

Before your criminal defense lawyer hires a private investigator for your case, they will typically discuss all the costs and fees associated with the service. Most lawyers have private investigators they routinely use. Contact our law firm for a case review. Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, California.

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About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...

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