Private Criminal Investigations vs Police Investigations
The hiring of a private investigator for private criminal investigations is sometimes necessary when caught up in or accused of an act of crime, whether personally or through business. The usual process of reporting a crime is done through the local police agencies or law enforcement, who are then obliged to start an investigation based on someone’s statement to them.
Government or State law enforcement agencies are usually the one’s to investigate criminal cases but that has now changed somewhat. It is commonplace for individuals and businesses to hire the services of private investigators to conduct private criminal investigations rather than report a crime to law enforcement; (although there are crimes that by law must be reported). The unfortunate possibility of reporting crimes to police agencies run the risk of being outed in the press – particularly if high profile.
Using a private investigator for criminal investigations can give the victim (a person or entity of whom the crime was committed against) better control. Here are some reasons a private criminal investigator may be hired instead of using the police:
- A high profile individual (such as an actor) may want to investigate a crime without the publicity of going to the police.
- A corporate business wants to investigate a crime internally so as not to harm their public reputation and cause their market share price to drop.
- The crime may be too petty for police to commit too many resources to fully investigate it, due to budgets and/or the limited potential of a criminal charge being brought against the criminal.
Law enforcement and police do have their restrictions, such as manpower and budgets, and therefore have to prioritize cases on the severity of the crime committed and if it's in the public's interest to fully investigate it. The police are more likely to spend resources investigating a homicide and less likely to spend much time on a simple retail theft - that’s where hiring a private investigator for a criminal case comes in.
What Is A Private Criminal Investigator?
A criminal investigator’s job is one that specializes in solving crimes against an individual or business, with the purpose of bringing those criminals responsible to justice, through the court system. A private investigator that specializes in private criminal investigations is trained to look for clues relating to a case and to gather evidence in accordance with local laws and procedures. A private investigator that works on criminal investigation cases has to determine from the evidence in hand what crime has been committed and by who.
Once the evidence of a crime has been collected, methodically put together and a suspect established - through overwhelming evidence - the private investigator can advise on a course of action. It is not necessary to report the crime to the police, but if serious enough there is a legal obligation to do so.
Crime investigations carried out by private investigators are paid for by the individual or company that hires them and is not a public service, as with police investigations. The cost of a private criminal investigation is usually substantially more than other low-key investigation services.
Types of Private Criminal Investigations
Considering how many laws there are and the potential of breaking one – knowingly or unknowingly – can give you some idea of how many types of crimes there are. So, without pulling out the criminal statute books, here are some of the main crimes a private criminal investigation can cover and what you can hire a private investigator for:
- Theft and fraud investigations
- Criminal damage against property
- Assault and homicide investigations
- Kidnapping investigations
- Sex crime investigations
- Drug crime investigations
- Unsolved crime and cold cases
- Criminal defense cases
Criminal Investigations Process and Methods
The standard process for a criminal investigation would obviously start with some form of official complaint from someone. A victim of crime, as they are also known, will usually report some crime against them or their business and make a formal statement or declaration.
The next step in the criminal investigation process is for the private criminal investigator to establish in fact that a crime has indeed been committed – according to any legal definition – and to follow a train of evidence. Through investigation, interviews, fingerprinting, etc. evidence is gathered and a suspect is identified.
Usually, once the suspect has been clearly identified an arrest can be made; if the private investigator’s client requests it. Or, if the crime is serious enough - by law or by conscience - the evidence will be passed on to the police. The next part of the crime investigation process is of course, court proceedings. All evidence – legally obtained and properly documented – is presented to a court of law where a judicial decision is made.
Methods of Criminal Investigation
A private criminal investigator will understand the methods of investigating crime that complies with local and State laws. Some of these methods of investigating crime are the following:
- Interviews - interviewing suspects and witnesses
- Crime scene - taking photos, fingerprinting, etc.
- Surveillance - following suspects
- Background checks - checking personal details of suspects and witnesses
- Document searches - sifting through court records, company documents, etc. for evidence
Hiring a private investigator for private criminal investigations is beneficial to anyone who has been a victim of a crime, or accused of one they haven’t done. Expecting the police to be the only organization to investigate crime is not always the wisest choice. If you want to hire a private investigator for a criminal defense case, search our investigator directory.