When New York police arrive at the scene of a crime where no suspect is in sight, they must begin an intense and detailed investigation to find and gather clues and evidence that will lead them to the perpetrator. If that evidence led police to your door, you have a right to be concerned about what may happen next. Additionally, you should know that the methods investigators use to collect and process the evidence against you may provide the building blocks for your criminal defense strategy.
Law enforcement must carefully follow the rules for collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses and interrogating you about your alleged involvement in the crime. This may include informing you of your rights and acquiring the appropriate warrants before they search you, your home or your vehicle. Paying close attention to the actions of police may allow you to assist in your defense preparation.
Processing the crime scene
Police are trained to notice minute details at a crime scene, details civilians may overlook or dismiss as unimportant. This may include the pattern of blood splatter, the condition of the victim’s clothing or the position of a weapon. Specially trained technicians will come to the scene and collect physical evidence, such as photographs, fingerprints and measurements. They may also gather forensic evidence like blood, saliva or hair follicles. Your defense team will ask many questions about this process, including:
- Did the investigators wear gloves and protective clothing to prevent cross contamination of evidence?
- Did investigators immediately place each piece of evidence in separate bags and label them?
- Did investigators accurately record and document the evidence?
- Did investigators establish an unbroken chain of custody for each article?
- Did they take proper precautions to prevent the damage or degradation of the evidence?
- Did investigators follow protocol when interviewing witnesses?
Witnesses must be interviewed separately to avoid having one influence the memory of another. Additionally, police may not suggest to the witness what they might have seen or inaccurately record a witness’ answers.
If police believe the evidence from the crime scene points to you as the perpetrator of the crime, they will likely take you into custody and interrogate you. Investigators are highly trained in interrogation techniques. They are allowed to lie or try to trick you into a confession, but they must inform you of your constitutional rights.
You have the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent during questioning. Refusing to answer questions without legal counsel is always the wise decision.