Why You Should Hire a PI Before You Are Charged With a Crime
Pre-indictment investigation is a relatively specialized field within criminal defense investigation,
however, for many cases this is the stage where investigation can have the most impact. If
exculpatory evidence is uncovered BEFORE an arrest is made, or before the prosecutor
decides to pursue an indictment, this is the easiest time to turn things around and hopefully
prevent your case from ever going to trial.
Phases of a Criminal Case.
Like a freight train, it is much more difficult to stop a criminal investigation once it has gathered
momentum. If you are under investigation for a crime, or if you think you may be charged, it’s
important to talk to an attorney as early as possible and set an investigator to work gathering
evidence on your behalf.
While a private investigator can be beneficial at almost any stage of a criminal investigation, you
have the best chance of influencing the outcome in the initial phases, especially before you
have been formally indicted.
The specific phases of a criminal case can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific
circumstances of the case; however, the general sequence of events is as follows:
Investigation -> Arrest -> Arraignment/Indictment -> Pre-Trial -> Trial -> Sentencing
A private investigator can be an effective tool at almost any stage in this process. However,
each phase builds on the previous one, so the earlier the investigation begins the more likely
the information uncovered by an investigator will have the greatest impact on your case.
It’s a common misconception that gathering evidence is only done for purposes of trial. But it is
obviously preferable to avoid ever even being charged. This is often the goal of pre-indictment
investigation: to demonstrate your innocence to the prosecutor before you have been charged.
In other words, convincing the prosecutor that it is not worth pursuing an indictment.
How Does a Prosecutor Decide Whether to Pursue an Indictment?
A few of the main factors a prosecutor may consider when deciding whether to pursue an
indictment in a criminal case include:
- The strength of the evidence: A prosecutor is more likely to pursue an indictment if there
is strong evidence that the individual committed the crime. This may include eyewitness
testimony, physical evidence, or other types of evidence that can help to establish the
- The seriousness of the crime: Prosecutors are more likely to pursue an indictment for
more serious crimes, such as murder or rape, because these crimes carry harsher
penalties and are considered more serious offenses.
- The likelihood of conviction: A prosecutor is more likely to pursue an indictment if they
believe that there is a good chance that the individual will be convicted at trial. This may
depend on the strength of the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses.
- The public interest: A prosecutor may also consider whether pursuing an indictment is in
the public interest. For example, if the crime is particularly heinous or has received a lot
of media attention, a prosecutor may be more likely to pursue an indictment in order to
hold the individual accountable and to send a message to the public that such crimes will
not be tolerated.
Your attorney may make an appeal on the basis of any or all of these factors in an effort to
persuade the prosecutor not to pursue charges. However, it is on the first and third points that
an investigator will generally be most useful.
Information revealed through private investigation can often convince a prosecutor that, on
balance, the evidence against you is weak or unreliable, or that it is unlikely they will be able to
secure a conviction at trial. Depending on the case and your attorney’s legal strategy this can
prevent you from ever being charged with a crime.
If you have already been charged, a prosecutor will be much more inclined to offer favorable
terms (or perhaps even drop the case) if he or she faces a mountain of exculpatory evidence,
rather than taking the case to trial and risk losing.
What is Exculpatory Evidence?
Exculpatory evidence is evidence that tends to show that the suspect or defendant is not guilty
of a crime. This can include any evidence that undermines the prosecution’s case or supports
the defendant’s innocence.
Exculpatory evidence can be critical in criminal cases, as it can help to establish the defendant’s
innocence and prevent an unfair conviction. It is therefore important for the prosecution and the
defense to thoroughly review and consider all available evidence in a case, including
Why Not Just Leave the Investigation to the Police?
You may wonder why you shouldn’t just let the police gather all the evidence. After all, they’re
there to find the truth.
The unfortunate reality is that once you have been targeted as a suspect, investigators for the
state are predisposed to see you as guilty. They are generally much more focused on finding
evidence that paints you in a negative light, and often overlook crucial evidence to the contrary.
Even when the state’s investigators find evidence that suggests you may be innocent, they do
not always present the evidence to the prosecutor!
This is where private investigation can be critical. While the state’s investigation is largely aimed
at finding damning evidence against you, a P.I. will run a parallel investigation on your behalf,
seeking any evidence that suggests your innocence.
Once a P.I. has gathered exculpatory evidence in your favor, your attorney may then disclose,
or share, that evidence with the prosecutor. The aim at the pre-indictment stage is simply to
ensure that the prosecution has ALL the evidence available prior to deciding whether to indict
you. Ideally, the prosecution will be convinced that they will not be able to prevail at trial, and the
case will be dropped.