American District Attourneys/Investigations

I’m watching too many American television programs.

Do American District Attourneys use their own staff to conduct investigations ?

Police do most of the investigative work, but State’s Attorneys offices (and public defenders) can have investigative staff. They can perform background checks on potential witnesses, conduct interviews, and serve as deposition witnesses.

Yes. The great bulk of investigations are carried out by police or, in some states, the highway patrol, state police or sheriff’s deputies. In Ohio, some prosecutors have an investigator or two (even in Cuyahoga County, the state’s biggest, I believe the prosecutor has no more than a half-dozen investigators) on staff to assist; in some counties, such as Stark County, they are referred to as “secret service officers” (not to confused with those Federal agents who guard the President and fight counterfeiting).

The police (whichever agency has jurisdiction) is responsible for the primary investigation. For most cases, a detective within the police department investigates, collects the evidence, and writes the report. They will then bring the case to the DA’s office for prosecution, at which point most of the police’s involvement with the case ends until a trial is called.

Once the DA has the case, there may be some additional investigation to do, such as researching the criminal history of the witnesses involved. In our office, that’s done by our own investigator. He doesn’t normally investigate the facts directly concerning the current offense; for one thing, that all should have been completed by the time it gets to us, and for another, if he should find evidence or uncover new information, he’d become a witness to the offense, and that can create problems.

Our investigator is a state-certified peace officer, meaning that he can carry a gun openly, make arrests, carry a badge, and so forth, though he doesn’t work for a police department. He is also trained in fingerprint analysis, which comes into play sometimes when a defendant claims ignorance of his criminal past and we have to compare his thumbprint to the prints on past judgment forms. Come to think of it, that also came into play once when we received a case involving forged resident alien cards; he examined them briefly and declared them fakes because the thumbprint image on the card was upside-down. heh. He also has access to criminal information databases that are extremely helpful, and having him in-house means we don’t have to keep running to the PD for info.

Anyway, the investigator is a handy guy to have around, especially if he’s a peace officer.