Criminal Defense Investigators is often referred to as “CSI’s” and “ADA’s”. These professions are the core of the criminal justice system, and any witness or suspect who is being questioned by the Police or the District Attorney is likely being questioned by a CSI. While the prosecutor has many’s (e.g., detectives, police officers, and circuit court attorneys) on staff, many defendants gamble with no hiring even one CSI.
Criminal defense investigators are sworn to uphold the Constitution and to assist the courts with cases that involve serious offenses. They perform an important role in maintaining the fair trials that are essential for the protection of our society. They interview witnesses, collect evidence, and provide reports to law enforcement officials. The goal of criminal defense investigators is to build a successful case from the accumulated evidence. Many times they are the key witness in a trial, helping to determine the outcome of a trial.
A criminal defense investigator may be employed by a private law firm, the government, or a private individual. Private law firms typically hire private investigators to perform routine research and follow up on leads that come to them. Government agencies and prosecutors may also use criminal defense investigators to review and test witnesses, to track down missing witnesses, to interview suspects, to review financial records, to search for additional evidence, and to check and recheck records to ensure compliance with legal procedures. Private individuals may also hire private investigators to conduct surveillance to gather evidence on someone they are investigating.
Most people associate private investigators with organized crime, such as organized crime or computer crimes. However, the job of a forensic investigator does not only involve tracking down witnesses or suspects involved in a crime. It also involves analyzing evidence, identifying characteristics of the crime, determining the time frame and location of the crime, and gathering and documenting evidence. Forensic investigators can also work closely with police officers and law enforcement personnel in executing their duties. Some investigators specialize only in crimes that occur on a federal level, while others work on state and local levels too.
Each criminal defense investigator has a unique personality and style. Their appearance and demeanor may give a clue to their character and their ability to remain calm under pressure. Good investigators are very well organized and detail-oriented. They are thorough when it comes to processing paperwork and ensuring their clients have provided all necessary information. When interviewing potential witnesses or suspects, they are thorough in their method of gathering information and may ask specific questions at every meeting to narrow the focus of the conversation.
Most criminal defense investigators obtain formal training from law enforcement agencies in the United States. There are various colleges and institutes that offer specialized training programs in this field. These programs generally last a couple of months and involve a lot of classroom discussion, lectures and case study. The first step in the training program is being prepared to meet the expectations of the law enforcement officials who will be overseeing the criminal defense investigation. Students must successfully pass a background check as well as a polygraph test to prove their knowledge and proficiency in the skills they will need to use during the investigative process.
A number of professional associations also exist for criminal defense investigators. Many of these organizations provide certification programs at affordable rates to law enforcement officials and the public. Training programs offered by the American Society of Criminal Justice Investigators (ASPI) is nationally recognized. Students seeking certification from the National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI) are expected to complete an eight-week course. Students from the National Association of Legal Security Investigators (NALI) are required to complete a nine-week course.
In Texas, there is the Forensic Institute of Texas. Certified forensic investigators can obtain a four-year degree and be placed in several job positions within the state of Texas. Certified investigators can also obtain the rank of captain in the Texas State Police. Other law enforcement positions available to forensic investigators include lie detection analyst, crime scene investigator, traffic investigator, missing person investigator, and a national level forensic scientist.