How a Private Investigator Might Process a Crime Scene
Posted by Writing PIs on May 22, 2011
A criminal defense attorney might ask a private investigator to critique the processing of a crime scene, or a private investigator might conduct her own crime scene processing for a client. You’d be surprised the evidence that can be found days, weeks, even months after law enforcement has closed the crime scene for their investigations.
The basic steps an investigator follows, including law enforcement investigators, typically include the following:
- Check the condition of any victims and arrange medical treatment if necessary.
- Secure and protect the crime scene. Keep in mind the possibility this crime scene might be the first in a series of crime scenes.
- Determine if further search is legal. If yes, the private investigator must obtain consent from the investigating authority or property owner, such as law enforcement or a landlord. If the investigator is a law enforcement officer, he obtains a search warrant from a local judge.
- Search, sketch, and document. Precise measurements of the crime scene include an accurate sketch containing a key, a scale and a legend noting the day, time, location and weather conditions. It is also useful to document compass directions on the sketch. Also, if documenting the crime scene via photographs or video, it is useful to film dimensions – height, width and length — with a measuring tape.
- Document the crime scene and its physical evidence. In law enforcement, a videographer typically accompanies an assigned officer on the initial walk-through of a crime scene. Similarly, a private investigator can document the crime scene layout with photographs or video. It is important to take close-up photographs of important items of evidence, such as footwear or impressions of objects.
- Handle the evidence so as to not contaminate it. Such precautions include wearing latex gloves and inserting evidence into plastic baggies.
- Collect, mark and catalogue evidence.
- Preserve the evidence in a central, organized location, such as a locked closet.