What do private investigators do for lawyers

Private investigators

Private investigator or private investigator

Working with private investigators or private detectives
From the author's point of view, there are still too many reservations (in some cases justified) in the area of ​​lawyers and especially criminal lawyers towards working with private investigators. A main problem, which is often mentioned by lawyers, is the question of how I can distinguish a professionally competent investigator from a dubious or incompetent detective. Since no training or exams are required to practice the detective profession in Germany, this is not always easy for the lawyer. Also, the detective's membership in the relevant professional associations is not necessarily a clear indication of good quality work. Here one can only suggest to the lawyer to specifically ask what training the investigator has. This applies to legal as well as criminal or other practical investigative qualifications. Many of the detectives are former members of the police, customs or other authorities. As a rule, lawyers can expect at least a qualified education and often years of practical experience. There are also training positions for private investigators in Germany that can be completed with a qualification.
Last but not least, you should specifically ask the investigator about other law firms for which he has worked in the past. A question to these colleagues should be a good safeguard so as not to fall for a "black sheep". Of course, poor detective work can also damage the attorney's reputation. Serious investigators are aware of this responsibility.

In various personal conversations with lawyers over the past few months, however, the following has also become clear to the author. The lawyer is often not aware of what a private investigator can actually do for one or the other client.
It starts here that just after an investigator has carried out the file study, there is often a different assessment (from a purely criminalistic point of view) than the one made by the lawyer. For example, a crime scene report, a ballistic report or an autopsy protocol are studied by the qualified investigator from his criminalistic point of view. He noticed technical errors and gaps in criminal matters. These can include conclusions drawn by the police from a specific trace, but which have been misinterpreted. For this the following example:

The author investigated the case of an attempted murder of a woman for a Berlin criminal defense attorney. She was handcuffed and found with severe strangulation in her bed by the police. The perpetrator named by the woman denied the act. A DNA trace of the defendant was on a cigarette butt in the ashtray next to the bed. Traces of action that inevitably should have emerged were missing. Injuries to the forearms (so-called scratch scars - typical signs of mental illness) were ignored by the investigating authorities. During the reconstruction carried out by the author, it turned out that several points in the victim's description of the crime were demonstrably wrong. Another essential witness could be found and questioned. This questioning was of course recorded so that it could be used in court. This witness was able to prove that the alleged victim told her about her intention to pretend a crime before the act. The investigation into the victim's past revealed that the woman had been suffering from severe mental illness for many years. Further investigations proved beyond any doubt that this was the pretense of a criminal offense. The client was acquitted in the main hearing.

In the case described, the Berlin police carried out a proper crime scene work, although the conclusions about the actual crime were drawn incorrectly from all the existing and evaluated traces.

But let's take specifically the crimes for which the police unfortunately do no or only very inadequate crime scene work. Here the private investigator can try to catch up on this work or at least partially reconstruct it.

In one case, the lawyer's client was accused of having completely destroyed her neighbor's landing stage with a saw. She is said to have removed the entire sawed-up bridge using a hanger. Apart from the criminal consequences, the financial requirement to repair the damage amounted to many thousands of euros. Since in such a case, of course, no sensible forensic crime scene work was carried out by the authorities, the author carried out this as a commissioned private investigator. Various remains of the jetty were found in the lake near the shore, which were then examined for corresponding tool marks and secured.It turned out that the client had not destroyed this jetty in the way she was accused of and that it had closed large parts of it was still on site in the lake. Another adversary of the injured party could subsequently be identified as the perpetrator. The acquittal was the logical consequence.

It is often the small details of the investigation that can be decisive for the outcome of a proceeding.
The author was commissioned by a Berlin law firm to conduct investigations into the personal environment of a complainant. His clients denied any involvement in the crime. It became known that the "well-behaved reporter" has been at home in the drug environment for many years. The lawyer brought these findings into the main hearing. This alone moved the judge to see the credibility of the complainant in a different light, and the accused were acquitted.

It does not always have to get out of hand so that expensive investigations are carried out for the client. A preparatory conversation between the lawyer and the private investigator usually brings some thoughts to identify a possible investigation approach. Such a briefing on a case at hand is usually free of charge with the detective agencies. The actual investigations and of course the costs incurred can then be discussed with the client. Only then is the investigator specifically commissioned. It has been shown in many cases that there are ways of achieving significant results with relatively little effort.

A good investigator has to keep himself up to date with the latest developments in forensic science, the latest developments in all relevant areas, and of course with the law. If he does this, he can of course also advise the lawyer in the field of criminology. In this way, the lawyer can be provided with the necessary experts quickly and easily, and the latest developments in criminology and its various areas of expertise can be incorporated into the current case.

Mario Arndt… "Source: Berliner Anwaltsblatt, 6/2009, 232 f.

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