If you are facing charges for a violent crime or serious drug offense, your rights are center stage. The process of investigating a crime involves many steps and the exchange of information and evidence through many hands. Even the most conscientious police detective or lab technician can overlook a detail, make a mistake or jump to a conclusion that places your future in jeopardy.
Having a general understanding of the process and tools of a criminal investigation may help you see the many ways in which the evidence that prosecutors finally present in court can contain flaws. This may benefit you as you build your defense strategy with the guidance of your California attorney.
At the Crime Scene
Once investigators name you as a suspect, their goal becomes gathering enough evidence to support their theory that you committed the crime. When the police arrive at the scene of a crime, they use their knowledge and experience to determine what items may be evidence against you, and they collect that physical evidence, including:
- Observing the overall scene using all their senses, including noting the weather conditions and any strange odors or bloodstains an untrained eye may miss
- Photographing various objects from different angles
- Documenting the scene with a video recording
- Taking measurements of the scene and potentially important objects
- Collecting forensic evidence, such as blood, fingerprints and potential drug residue
- Gathering objects they believe may be related to the crime, such as a weapon or drug paraphernalia
Every piece of evidence investigators find must follow a careful chain of custody from the scene of the crime to the lab or evidence storage. A mistake in that chain could result in the court excluding that evidence from your trial.
Another important tool for investigators is the witness interview. Police may question anyone at the scene, those who may have been nearby at the time of the crime, and even your family and friends. They are trying to find evidence that you had a motive and opportunity for committing the crime. They will also question you.
You should not be fooled into thinking police are on your side. In fact, they may use your confusion or fear to manipulate you into incriminating yourself. They are watching your body language and measuring your words and trying to get you to divulge information or contradict yourself, so it is wise to avoid saying anything until you have consulted with your attorney. Your attorney will review your case and the evidence against you and assist you in defending yourself against the charges.