There is no shortage of television programs that depict the process of criminal cases and investigations. It is a popular genre. Of course, programs meant for entertainment do not delve into the details of what a criminal investigation entails. Here is an overview of the basic, critical facts to know about the process of an investigation.
How does an investigation start?
There are many ways an investigation could begin. The two most common ways generally include:
- A report: If someone witnesses or suspects a crime, then reports it to North Carolina police, it is common for an investigation to ensue. For example, if an accountant at a company notices issues with funds, reports their suspicions to the police and provides probable cause, it could start a fraud investigation. A report may also take the form of a call to 911 or an anonymous tip.
- Police witness: For example, if police see people fighting outside of a bar, then the investigation would technically begin when they see the behavior.
Some people might not be aware that they are under investigation, especially in the beginning. The first hint may be if the police wish to question you or the people around you.
Collecting evidence is the main goal
The primary purpose of investigations is to collect all of the relevant evidence. The most important factor of this process that you must know is the likelihood of a search. Searches are one of the main ways police gather evidence that the prosecution can use against you in court.
It is critical to understand your rights under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which protects you from illegal searches. Always ask to see the search warrant, and know what to expect, so you can protect those rights.
What about federal cases?
As we have discussed in previous blogs, investigations at the state level may quickly lead to federal charges, especially cases involving white-collar crimes, computer crimes or drug crimes.
The investigation process is similar at both the state and federal levels. However, one of the key differences is the parties involved. Government agencies will be involved in federal investigations, such as federal prosecutors, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
There are many details that go into a criminal investigation, whether at the state or federal level. It is important to be aware of how they work in order to defend yourself against criminal charges.