“A good investigator is generally more valuable than a good lawyer”
– F. Lee Bailey, Defense Attorney.
A seasoned private investigator is adept at separating fact from fiction, and that skill can directly affect the outcome of a settlement or trial. That’s why a first-rate private investigator is a critical component of any attorney’s arsenal.
Private investigators provide an independent analysis of a case. They thoroughly review reports, evidence, statements, the scene of the crime, etc., and then present their findings – as well as an investigative plan to achieve a positive outcome – to the attorney. During this analysis, alternate case theories can be uncovered and explored, along with any inconsistencies noted by the investigator. Private investigators with prior law enforcement experience are able to interpret large amounts of information contained in or omitted from police department records. It is the skilled private investigator who intuitively knows that the best evidence may be the evidence that is not contained in a police report.
Sometimes, a private investigator’s old-fashioned gumshoe detective work can break a case wide open. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with other federal agencies, routinely utilize neighborhood canvassing in order to solve complex cases, and for good reason: because it works. Private investigators who conduct meticulous neighborhood canvases are often able to locate new witnesses and evidence, both of which can be favorable to the case. Often, the new evidence can be used to discredit the opposition or provide leverage during negotiations. When it comes to criminal defense, it goes without saying that police departments rarely conduct proper neighborhood canvases, which opens the door for the private investigator to discover evidence that was not originally uncovered.
The use of smartphones, computers, tablets, smart watches, and GPS devices are commonplace today. These devices contain valuable data that is retrievable and can be exploited to assist in the case. For example, internal and external vehicle GPS devices store tracking points, way points, trip information, speed data, and other navigational data, even long after “user deletion.” Other devices yield text messages, emails, call logs, web histories, pictures, GPS locations, social media chats, and purchasing histories, all of which can be retrieved – even if the user has tried to delete the information. Private investigators with IT knowledge can advise the attorney as to how data records can be obtained, investigated, and presented to positively influence the case.
Intelligence gathering allows the attorney to better understand his or her opponent. The intelligence obtained can then be used to strengthen the case. Private investigators have access to restricted data brokers, and thus can compile critical intelligence that would otherwise be unavailable or untapped. This information can be used to conduct thorough background investigations to either vet or discredit witnesses and experts. Surveillance, a form of intelligence gathering, exposes adversaries and documents the movement and activities of witnesses or claimants; it also provides insight into how they are all connected – sometimes even providing that missing piece to the puzzle.
According to the Phoenix Business Journal, 97 percent of civil cases settle prior to trial and 90 percent of criminal cases result in a plea (http://bit.ly/2rl3Ghs). The key to negotiations is possessing the right information that will have the greatest impact. Private investigators are instrumental in the discovery of vital information. The ability to discredit witnesses, provide plausible alternative theories, present statements and evidence that are friendly to the attorney’s case, document police procedural errors, and introduce other information obtained through intelligence gathering is very powerful.
It’s beneficial for an attorney to use a seasoned private investigator, for many reasons. But most important, a private investigator can be a force multiplier, freeing up the attorney to focus on litigation, which most attorneys prefer over combing through alleyways and knocking on doors.
Part 2 of this series will address locating assets, preparing for cross examination, interview witnesses, and defense witnesses.