Houston Criminal Law Blog


The Criminal Investigation Process: How Authorities Investigate Criminal Matters

How Crimes Are Investigated in Texas

Many people enjoy watching TV crime dramas in order to relax or just to enjoy. While it’s true that these shows are entertaining, they are not always entirely accurate. In reality, crime investigations are not usually glamorous or heart-pounding.

Anyone who has ever experienced a crime or who has been charged with a criminal offense owes it to themselves to understand this process. The way that law enforcement handles crime investigations can play a huge role in the way that a criminal trial affects your life. Read on to learn more about how criminal investigations are carried out in the real world.

The Investigation Process: An Overview

First of all, it is important to understand that no two criminal investigations are exactly alike. While some investigations may vary widely in their specific details, most of these procedures will share some distinct similarities.

Many crime scene investigations will include these elements in roughly this order:

  • Preliminary Investigation – Crime Scene Response
  • Primary Investigation – Gathering Additional Information
  • Evidence Analysis
  • Conclusions – Arrests and Charges

Again, every case is unique and may call for different investigative procedures. However, this rough outline is a fairly accurate representation that can help you learn more about what will happen after a crime occurs.

The Preliminary Investigation

This is the point at which criminal investigations begin. This process usually gets underway after a crime has been reported. This often occurs after a person makes a call to 911 to request assistance or inform the police of a suspected crime.

The police response typically consists of several elements. First, police will be dispatched to the scene of the crime. Once there, the police will begin working to contain the crime scene. This step is crucial for preserving important evidence. The police may make contact with the person who reported the crime, block off nearby streets and check the premises for suspects. They will also conduct initial interviews with the people at the scene to learn more information.

For example, suppose that Megan calls the police to report a burglary. She returned home to find her front door kicked in and some of her valuables were missing. The police will tape off the scene, check the house to see if the suspect is still inside or nearby and begin asking Megan some questions to learn more. They may also provide first aid and contact emergency services if necessary.

The Primary Investigation and Evidence Analysis

At this stage, the heavy-duty investigation will get underway. During the preliminary investigation, the responding police officers will mark and photograph potential evidence while also making a report of any statements that they gather.

The primary investigation usually consists of gathering up the evidence for analysis. Evidence may be taken back to a crime lab for testing and processing. Also, if a description of the suspect is provided, a sketch or profile may be provided to local media outlets. Police may also ask the public to call a tip line.

Once the evidence and crime scene have been analyzed, the police may have a better idea of potential suspects. Warrants may be served and suspects may be brought in for further questioning.

Charges and Arrests

In many cases, the analysis of relevant evidence, witness interviews and potential suspect interviews will point to a likely suspect. Once that link has been established, the most likely suspect may be placed under arrest and questioned.

In Megan’s example, police found fingerprints, footprints and clothing fibers at the scene of the crime. Also, a neighbor reported seeing a white male wearing black clothing running away from the crime scene shortly after Megan called 911. The police use this information to compile a suspect profile. They give this information to the local newspaper and TV news station so that it can be broadcast to the public.

Two days later, a person calls in with an anonymous tip to say that a white male in their neighborhood was bragging about some valuables that he stole. Police obtain a warrant from a judge and arrest this suspect for further questioning. After questioning, the police determine that they suspect’s fingerprints and clothing match samples taken from the crime scene. At this point, they press charges, book the suspect into jail and the court will schedule an appearance date.

The Importance of Investigations

The criminal investigation process is the heart of the Texas justice system. It is this process that can determine if you are charged with a criminal offense. If you are arrested and taken in for questioning, the best strategy is to contact a lawyer and refuse to answer any questions without your lawyer present.

This will help you defend your rights and ensure that you have a chance for a strong defense in court.

Are you being subjected to a criminal investigation? You owe it to yourself to protect your legal rights. Attorney Matthew D. Sharp can help. Contact his office today at 713-868-6100.

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