Who is A Criminal Defense Investigator?

This article provides in depth knowledge of what a criminal defense investigator is and what it entails.

When a person has been charged with a crime, the defense team will mainly rely on the police investigation.

At times, the police investigation is far from accurate, causing the police to arrest the wrong individual.

Therefore, a criminal defense investigator will usually be hired by the accused to help find facts and evidence crucial to forming a formidable defense.

What Work Do Criminal Defense Investigators Do?

A criminal investigator works side by side with the defense lawyers.

With the help of an investigator, defense attorneys can be able to form a formidable defense and prove that an accused person did not commit a crime.

The main task of the investigator will be discovering the truth and helping the defense counsel prove a case beyond reasonable doubt.

What Does The Investigation Process Entail?

One of the processes relied on by criminal defense investigators is the Component Method of criminal investigation which gives an outline of what criminal defense investigation encompasses.

The Component Method outlines that the investigation process entails an in-depth review of the discovery file, police reports, witness statements, crime scene examination, and lab results.

A crime scene investigation helps the criminal defense investigator determine how the crime was committed.

In addition, a crime scene investigation ensures that a criminal defense investigator will verify and take note of any discrepancy between the evidence provided by the prosecution and witness statements.

This review is important in providing the investigator with background information that will help in strategizing and formulating the defense.

Therefore, the investigation process enables the criminal defense investigator to be equipped with facts hence better placed to understand the allegations much better.

During the investigation, a criminal defense investigator needs to conduct a background check of the defendant(s) and any potential witnesses.

A background check can inform a criminal defense investigator of any negative information that will be useful in impeaching witness testimonies.

Among others, a background investigation will majorly rely on the research of past arrest and conviction records, character reputation, and social media mannerisms.

Once an investigation is complete, the criminal defense investigator should draft a professional and accurate report.

The investigation report will assist the defense counsel in formulating a defense strategy.

An investigation report should also be accurate as it will help the criminal defense investigator to recall specific evidence when testifying in the courts.

Who is A Criminal Defense Investigator
Who is A Criminal Defense Investigator Image by Quinnan Law

Professional Qualities of a Criminal Defense Investigator

While in the duty of work, a criminal defense investigator should be neutral.

A biased mindset involves emotions and preconceived notions which may get in the way and compromise an investigation.

A criminal defense investigator should avoid breaking the attorney-client privilege. This means that at the beginning of the investigation, information shared by a defendant should remain confidential.

This information is also protected by the work product doctrine.

The work product doctrine ensures that third parties do not access confidential litigation material.

Accordingly, the initial defendant interview by the criminal defense investigator should be conducted in a professional, productive, and comfortable manner.

The initial conduct of a criminal defense investigator will determine the type of relationship they form with the defendant.

The relationship between a defendant and the investigator is important as a positive relationship is crucial for ensuing success of the investigation.

Thus, the onus is also on the defendant to ensure that a rapport is created with the criminal defense investigator.

A good rapport between the defendant and the criminal defense investigator ensures a free flow of information as all facts will be revealed and bad facts will not be concealed.

A criminal defense investigator should further ensure reporting of all information gathered to the defense counsel.

How To Become a Criminal Defense Investigator

The following educational background can come in handy for Criminal Defense Investigators

1. Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

The modules covered in this course include criminal procedure, evidence collection and learning the relevant enabling laws.

This course is similar to that which police officers take when they enroll to join the force.

2. Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Some of the skills acquired in this course include homicide and fire investigations.

3. Certification

Nonetheless, no matter the educational background one has, it is important for all aspiring Criminal Defense Investigators to acquire certification.

The National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI), the Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council, and the International Association for Identification are the organizations involved in testing for competency and issuing certifications.

How Do I Hire A Criminal Defense Investigator?

Typically, it is the defense lawyer who will suggest hiring an investigator in the majority of circumstances. Defense attorneys frequently collaborate with private investigators and are knowledgeable about the most suitable ones for your particular case.

If your lawyer does not propose hiring an investigator for your situation, inquire about the reason behind their decision. If you firmly believe that there is evidence that can prove your innocence, your attorney should make every effort to present it promptly and effectively.


According to the Defense Investigator’s Guide published by The U.S. Department of Justice, a criminal defense investigator’s primary task is to collect the information necessary for a client’s defense.

The most important skill that an investigator ought to hone is communication.

Criminal defense investigation essentially consists of interviewing people and establishing rapport with all personality types.

While a majority of criminal defense investigators gain experience while on the job.

The Defense Investigator’s Guide lists Criminology, English, and Psychology as beneficial educational experiences that investigators ought to have.

The median salary for people in this career is around $48,000 per year.

The salary varies with experience and location.