Law enforcement officials will investigate if you’re suspected of being involved in criminal activity. The purpose of the investigation is to establish probable cause to arrest and begin a criminal case against you. You may become aware that you are being investigated when people close to you tell you that they’ve been contacted by authorities asking questions about you. Investigators might also reach out to you directly for information.
The length of a criminal investigation varies depending on several factors. Once it’s completed, law enforcement officials will pass their findings to a prosecutor who will determine whether to charge you with a crime.
Even at the investigation stage of a criminal matter, it’s a good idea to have an attorney representing you. They can give you advice on how to handle things and ensure that your rights are protected.
At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our lawyers start defending those suspected of crimes in Los Angeles immediately. Schedule a consultation by calling us at (800) 462-7160 or contacting us online today.
What Does It Mean to Be Under Criminal Investigation?
Being under criminal investigation typically means that someone has accused you of committing a crime. This can happen in several ways, but usually, it starts with the alleged victim or witness making a report to law enforcement officials.
From there, the investigators will start looking into the matter to see if the evidence supports the allegations. Still, being under investigation does not necessarily mean you will be charged with a crime. The investigation may conclude without any charges being filed.
How Do You Know If You're Being Investigated for a Crime?
Several signs might suggest that you are under criminal investigation.
You might suspect that officials are investigating you if:
- They start contacting people you're close to, such as family, friends, or coworkers. Authorities may be looking for information about you or trying to pressure your acquaintances into giving information.
- They contact you directly. Law enforcement officials may confront you in person, show up at your home or office, or call you. Regardless of whether you've done anything wrong, it's always best to exercise your right to remain silent when talking to the police. Anything you say, even if it's to defend your innocence, can be used against you in your case.
- They are conducting surveillance on you. You might notice government vehicles outside your home or work or investigators following you or watching you from a distance.
What Happens When the Police Investigate?
Trying to determine whether a crime was committed and who committed it are the primary goals of a police investigation. Authorities need evidence to establish probable cause.
Investigations follow a similar process. However, slight differences may exist depending on the type of crime. For example, a sexual assault investigation might be handled differently from one for robbery.
During an investigation, officials may:
- Interview people who might have knowledge of the crime, including witnesses, victims, and your friends and family;
- Gather documents, surveillance footage, recordings, and social media posts;
- Examine the crime scene; and/or
- Analyze any physical evidence, such as blood, hair, or fingerprints.
The information collected may be used to build a case against you and provide justification for arresting you.
How Long Does a Criminal Investigation Take?
No two criminal matters are alike, and there is no set amount of time that an investigation will take. Ultimately, the goal is to collect sufficient evidence to either charge the suspect with a crime or rule out potential suspects. In some cases, investigators may be able to gather enough evidence within a few hours or days. In other cases, the investigation may continue for months or even years.
When conducting investigations, authorities must also be aware of the statute of limitations, which sets a deadline for the commencing prosecution. For most misdemeanors, prosecutors have one year from the date of the crime to file charges. For most felonies, they have three years. Exceptions to the time limits exist. For example, offenses penalized by eight or more years in prison have a six-year limit, and crimes punishable by life imprisonment or death have no time limit.
What Can You Do If You're Being Investigated?
Even if you haven't been charged with a crime, it's important to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can help you understand your rights and what to do during the investigation to protect you from self-incrimination, unlawful searches and seizures, and other miscarriages of justice.
In addition, your attorney may be able to conduct a pre-file investigation, which could enable you to avoid criminal charges altogether by negotiating with the prosecutor before they submit their formal complaint.
If the prosecutor decides to move forward with your case, having an attorney on your side from the beginning will put them one step ahead in building your defense.
Schedule a Consultation with Our Firm
Being under criminal investigation can be a frightening experience. You may not know what is happening or what will happen next. However, by understanding the process and knowing your rights, you can feel more prepared and confident during this time. If you are being investigated, consult an attorney who can help guide you through the process.
To speak with one of our Los Angeles lawyers, please contact Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP at (800) 462-7160.