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Criminal Investigations

Understanding Criminal Investigations:

There are various state, local and federal agencies that investigate crimes, obtain evidence, and help prosecutors understand the background of the case. Often times a number of agencies or task forces are involved in an investigation.

An investigation refers to the process of collecting information in order to: (1) determine if a crime has been committed; (2) identify the perpetrator; (3) apprehend the perpetrator; and (4) provide evidence to support a conviction in court. If the first three objectives are successfully attained, then the crime can be said to be solved. Several other outcomes such as recovering stolen property, deterring individuals from engaging in criminal behaviors, and satisfying crime victims have also been associated with the process.

The major problem for the police in conducting a criminal investigation is that not only is there potentially massive amounts of information available, but the relevance of the information is often unknown, the information is often incomplete, and the information is often inaccurate. Further, to be useful in proving guilt in court , the evidence must have certain other qualities, and certain rules and procedures must be followed in collecting the evidence.

Search Warrants:

In any criminal investigation, there might be a search warrant. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution usually requires that police officers have “probable cause” before they search a person’s home, their clothing, car, or other property. Searches usually require a search warrant, issued by a “neutral and detached” judge.

Direct Evidence:

The investigative agency will seek both direct and circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is evidence that supports a fact without an inference. Testimony related to something that happened before or after the crime would be considered circumstantial as it requires an inference.

Circumstantial Evidence:

This is statement(s) or information obtained indirectly or not based on first-hand experience by a person. Circumstantial evidence includes people’s impressions about an event that happened which they didn’t see.

Status of Criminal Investigations:

  1. Open —This is an open/active investigation where the Police are actively looking for leads and/or evidence that can tie the perpetrator to the crime.
  2. Pending — This is a case in which the Police are no longer actively looking for leads and/or evidence but if something comes up and they receive something they will move on it.
  3. Closed—This is a case that is closed. The Police have found that there is no criminal actively.



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