Why Attorney Investigation Is Critical to Your Criminal Defense Case
The fact someone has been arrested for a crime does not necessarily mean they are going to be convicted and punished. A judge or jury must still be convinced that (1) no legal errors were made by the police and (2) there is enough valid evidence to support a conviction.
Obviously, the police and the prosecuting attorneys will do their best to follow all the right legal procedures, amass hard evidence, and get a conviction. But nobody is perfect.
Consider this: In the city of Joliet, Illinois, there are just 40 investigators who handled over 3,100 criminal cases in 2016. Those cases include arrests made by the city police department’s 140 officers in the Patrol division, plus those in Tactical, Narcotics, and other units. With that many people and arrests in play, you can imagine that some facts must slip through the cracks.
Attorney Investigation May Be Crucial to Your Defense.
You may not think of an attorney as an investigator, but investigation is an essential part of a defense attorney’s job. Investigation can make or break a case. Depending on the severity of the crime, the attorney investigation should include one or more of the following steps:
• Studying the police evidence
• Gathering additional evidence
• Looking for procedural errors made by the police
Studying the Police Evidence
An experienced criminal defense attorney will know where to look for cracks in the prosecution’s case. Many pieces of evidence must be reviewed, including but not limited to:
- Police reports.
- Witness statements.
- Recordings from non-police sources, such as business security cameras or witness cell phones.
- Recordings and photographs made by the police. This includes recordings of police radio conversations and 911 calls, as well as audio/video recordings by body cams, dash cams, traffic cams, security cameras, interview room cameras, and so on.
- Records related to breathalyzers and other chemical testing.
It is not uncommon to find errors and omissions in police records–and one of them might make the difference between a defendant’s conviction and release. Even with all good intentions, a police officer will naturally tend to focus on facts supporting the arrest and ignore those that do not support the law enforcement point of view. In addition, when numerous people are involved in an incident, written police reports may not capture everything that was said and done by all the various people involved. An attorney who is also a skilled investigator will root out and challenge any conflicting or questionable pieces of evidence.
Gathering Additional Evidence
In addition to studying the documentation gathered by the police, defense investigation methods may include:
- Re-interviewing witnesses in person or on the telephone.
- Talking to people the police did not interview.
- Obtaining telephone call logs.
- Searching for recordings from non-police sources, such as business security cameras or witness cell phones.
- Hiring a private investigator.
- Re-testing or re-evaluation of physical evidence.
In a DUI case, for example, an investigator might seek out a bartender who can testify to the timespan you were in their establishment and how much you drank during that time.
Looking for Police Procedural Errors
A skilled criminal defense attorney will also look for errors in police procedure. In a DUI case, for example, there are a variety of police mistakes that could make the difference between “guilty as charged” and “case dismissed; you are free to go.” Here are just a few:
- Lack of probable cause for the initial traffic stop.
- Field sobriety tests not administered correctly.
- Failure to properly conduct a breathalyzer test.
Protect Your Rights with an Experienced Will County Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been arrested, you need an attorney who will aggressively investigate and advocate for you. Contact a knowledgeable Joliet criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. For a free and confidential consultation, call the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025; calls are responded to 24 hours a day.