In certain types of criminal cases, investigations are done before an arrest ever takes place. The following is information on those types of investigations, how long they take, and what steps you should take if you believe you may be under investigation. To learn more call and schedule a consultation with a DC criminal defense lawyer today.
The scope of a police or prosecutor investigation prior to an arrest depends on the type of case being investigated. For some cases, the police officers involved do very little investigation or no investigation. For example, when a police officer arrests someone as a result of a bar fight, they may look at the person who has fewer injuries, believe that is the person who started the fight, and arrest that person.
Police officers may talk to one witness on scene and make an arrest based on that. In those situations, police officers may or may not conduct an extensive investigation which can be very frustrating to the person who is arrested. It is also something that a defense attorney can use as a possible challenge to the prosecutor’s evidence because the police officers conducted a very narrow or insufficient investigation before making an arrest.
In more complicated cases, prosecutors and law enforcement investigators may do lengthier investigations that could take weeks, months, sometimes even years. As an example, allegations of sexual abuse or other sexual crimes can take many months before there is an actual arrest. The reason is that law enforcement agents often need to collect DNA evidence. They may need to speak to multiple witnesses before they can get probable cause for an arrest warrant to be approved.
In murder investigations, getting enough evidence to prosecute a case can take long periods of time. Even in some minor cases, the police may need to conduct a lengthy investigation to identify a suspect. They may have only an allegation and may not know who exactly to investigate. Police might speak to multiple witnesses, do show-up identification procedures, look for DNA or fingerprint evidence, and reach out to various suspects to try to get them to come in and make statements that can be used to make an arrest. The type of investigation depends on how much information the police need to make an arrest. In some situations, they may not need very much evidence to make their arrest.
If someone learns that the government, through the FBI, local police, or through the United States Attorney’s Office, is investigating them or a company they might be associated with currently or in the past, and they haven’t been indicted or arrested, the first important step is to reach out to an attorney. The attorney can help the person understand their rights, what their possible exposure might be if arrested, and any available defenses they might have.
When a person is looking for a lawyer, the first thing to do is find a lawyer with experience in the area of law in which the person is being investigated. For example, with white collar crimes such as fraud, embezzlements, and similar offenses, the person would not look for lawyers with experience in domestic violence, or driving under the influence. Even though that lawyer might be very experienced with the court house or the procedures for other types of criminal cases, that lawyer may not be the best person to discuss defenses in a fraud or embezzlement case.
If a person is not sure why they are being investigated, having a lawyer with extensive experience in a wide variety of criminal offenses, in the jurisdiction where he or she is being investigated, such as the District of Columbia, Maryland, or Virginia, is an important first step. Once the person finds a lawyer with experience in the appropriate area, they can discuss with the lawyer what the next step should be. For example, should the person speak to investigators, make a statement, or stay quiet. The person should ask about their obligations regarding evidence that law enforcement agents collect, and the person’s legal obligations to make certain evidence available should a search warrant or subpoena be issued. It is very important that the person ask the attorney about possible defenses to the allegations against him or her. Each of these areas should be discussed with an experienced attorney who can inform the person about the legal processes and different options available to that person.
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