Private investigators play an important role in the U.S. civil and criminal justice system. The purpose of any legal investigation is to, “provide the information necessary to support or refute a claim, cause of action, or criminal prosecution” (Nemeth 6). The criminal justice system relies’ heavily on the accuracy of a private investigators findings. A state’s attorney or prosecutor may utilize the information gathered by a private investigator to decide whether to prosecute an alleged offender or drop or reduce the charges. Likewise, a public defender may use a private investigator to defend a client by gathering evidence in support of his/her defense. The private investigators findings are often the basis for many decisions made by judges and attorneys as to whether there is enough evidence to proceed in a criminal prosecution. In general, the purpose of the investigative process in both the civil and criminal justice system is to; “determine if there is sufficient factual evidence to support or defeat each element of a cause of action”, “accumulate the necessary factual evidence to prove or defeat a case at trial or to form the basis for a settlement”, “locate leads to additional evidence”, “locate persons or property”, and “find evidence that might be used to discredit (impeach) a witness” (Nemeth 8). Of course, every investigation is different and much of the investigative process will be determined by the subject matter involved (Nemeth 8). For instance, a polygraph investigation is procedurally very different from a spousal infidelity investigation. The ultimate goals are the same – obtaining information – but the procedures for obtaining that information vary greatly. Generally, the private investigator working any case must engage in the following uniformed practices; “a logical sequence must be followed”, “real, physical evidence must be legally obtained”, “witnesses must be identified, interviewed, and prepared for any potential or actual litigation”, “leads must be developed”, “reports and documentation must be collected”, “information must be accurately and completely recorded”, and “evidence collected must correlate to the claim, cause of action, or offense” (Nemeth 13). The main purpose in any investigation (public or private) is to legally find out the truth.
Nemeth, Charles P. “Private Security and the Investigative Process”. 3rd Edition. CRC Press. New York. 2010. Print.