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Pre-Arrest Investigation

What Is the Investigation Process Before an Arrest?

Generally, before law enforcement can take a person into custody, they must investigate to establish grounds that the individual likely broke the law. This is known as probable cause, and it is a requirement in the Fourth Amendment. The rationale behind it is to prevent people from being detained for crimes they didn’t commit.

Probable cause is more than just a hunch that law enforcement goes off of; it must be based on objective circumstances. That means the evidence must reasonably demonstrate that a person engaged in criminal behavior.

The Purpose of a Criminal Investigation

The purpose of the investigation is to collect evidence to establish probable cause and identify a suspect. It also serves to assist prosecutors in determining whether and what charges should be filed against the individual.

The Fourth Amendment also comes into play during a criminal investigation. In many cases, before law enforcement can search an individual’s home or personal property, they must obtain a warrant. Without one, evidence obtained may be suppressed at court because it was seized in violation of the right to privacy.

The methods investigators employ and the amount of time it takes to complete depend on the specifics of the case, but most investigations usually involve similar processes.

Notification of an Offense

The investigation process begins when law enforcement is notified that an offense likely occurred. Either the alleged victim or a witness might report the incident, triggering officers to investigate the matter to determine if a crime has been committed and who committed it.

If the alleged perpetrator was still at the scene of the crime, law enforcement could make an arrest then; however, an investigation must still be conducted to collect evidence for the case.

Collecting Physical Evidence

During an investigation, law enforcement will look for physical evidence to support the claim that a crime has been committed and to attempt to identify a suspect (if one was not apprehended at the time of the offense). Investigators, such as detectives, are trained to make detailed observations of the scene, looking for things like possible weapons, bloodstains, and footprints. During the evidence gathering stage, they may also take photographs, measurements, and written reports.

The physical evidence collected from the scene will then be sent to a crime lab for analysis. Technicians may run such things as blood samples and fingerprints through various tests and compare them with information on known databases to attempt to identify a suspect.

Because physical evidence can be delicate and mishandling can cause contamination, investigators must properly collect and preserve it; otherwise, it could be deemed inadmissible at trial.

Conducting Interviews

Another technique law enforcement might use to investigate a crime is interviews. The purpose is to gather as much information about the alleged crime as possible. Because statements made by one person could influence those made by others, investigators usually separate witnesses to learn about the incident from their own recollections.

Investigators may also interview the alleged perpetrator to determine their involvement in the offense. As with other parts of the investigation process, when law enforcement conducts an interrogation, they must not violate the individual’s constitutional rights. For instance, before asking questions, they must inform the suspect of their rights to remain silent and to an attorney.

Going Undercover

In some cases, law enforcement might conduct an undercover operation to investigate a crime. This technique usually involves an officer concealing their identity to observe people suspected of being engaged in criminal activity.

Making an Arrest

After probable cause is established, law enforcement will present the evidence to a judge to seek an arrest warrant. The judge has the final say as to whether or not there is enough information to justify taking the suspect into custody.

Get Skilled Defense from Hisker Law Firm, PC

If you’re being investigated for an offense in Greenville, act quickly to get a seasoned attorney on your side. Our lawyer has over 15 years of experience and can help you understand the investigation process and your rights. We handle a variety of legal matters, including drug crimes, sex crimes, and federal offenses, and we will work hard toward a favorable outcome in your case.

Discuss your circumstances today by calling us at (864) 610-1277 or contacting us online.

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