In some cases, such as a DUI, the police have sufficient evidence to arrest an individual right away. But in other criminal cases, they must conduct an investigation in order to establish probable cause to arrest someone for committing a crime. If you are a suspect in a criminal investigation, you need to understand the steps the police may take to build a case against you so that you can protect your rights and defend yourself if you are arrested.
Steps in a Police Investigation Before an Arrest Is Made
How extensive a pre-arrest investigation is will depend on the circumstances of the crime, how serious the offense is, and what must be proved to establish the suspect committed the crime.
Common Ways Law Enforcement Conduct an Investigation
- Collect evidence. The police would visit the crime scene and collect evidence, such as a weapon, blood and hair samples, and fingerprints. They must follow special procedures in collecting and storing any evidence. If they violate the rules, the defendant could have grounds to file a motion to suppress the evidence.
- Interview witnesses. The police would also interview the victim, witnesses to the crime, and others who can help establish a suspect committed the offense. This can include interviewing an individual’s family, co-workers, and friends.
- Search social media and records. The police could search a suspect’s social media sites for damaging information that they can use against the person. They may also obtain a warrant to obtain copies of the individual’s cellphone and financial records.
- Conduct surveillance. A team of police could engage in surveillance of a suspect, accomplices, or other individuals to obtain evidence in a criminal investigation.
- Going undercover. Although this tactic is less common, a police officer may go undercover if they are investigating a drug operation, pornography crime, or other serious felony offense.
How to Protect Your Rights If You Are the Subject of a Pre-Arrest Investigation
If you discover that the police are investigating you, you should not make the mistake of cooperating with them. Even if you are being falsely accused of committing a crime, you may not be able to convince the police of this and may give them ammunition to arrest you.
Steps That Can Help Protect Your Rights
- If the police only bring you in for questioning, you do not have to remain at the police station and should leave.
- You should not agree to allow the police the conduct a search unless they have a valid search warrant.
- Remember that anything you say can be used against you by the police. To protect your rights, do not speak to them without having a lawyer present at the interrogation.
- Hire a skilled criminal lawyer as soon as you learn that you are being investigated. They can conduct their own investigation, help you protect your rights, and may be able to convince the police not to pursue charges against you.
Do you believe that you are a suspect in a criminal investigation in Norfolk or Virginia Beach? Call our Norfolk office at 877-960-3441 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation with our experienced criminal defense attorneys today to learn how we will help defend you.