Defense Side Investigation in a DC Burglary Case

Every DC burglary defense attorney should conduct their own investigation on every case. Our firm has investigators on staff in addition to our paralegals and clerks. We make sure that we examine all of the evidence that the government has given us, as well as locate any additional pertinent evidence the government or law enforcement hasn’t yet picked up. Any additional witnesses and physical or documentary evidence will be used to challenge the government’s assertions that the defendant has committed the crime they were accused of. Every case is different, but in general, the defense will look for any kind of evidence to rebut the government’s accusations.

Inequity of Evidence

One reason it is critically important for an individual who is being investigated or has been arrested in a burglary matter to retain experienced counsel as quickly as possible is to try to shorten that inequity in investigatory time between the defense and prosecution. Often the government is investigating a burglary matter for some length of time before an arrest is made. This may not happen often in burglary cases, but in general, the government will be investigating because they have to build the case.

The prosecution has to acquire and present evidence sufficient to convict the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. Their task is to make sure that they have all of the information needed to overcome that burden. The defense, on the other hand, does not have to prove innocence. The defense has to rebut some or all of the government’s evidence such that a jury would not find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The defense will often examine a case and prioritize areas to attack the government’s evidence. For example, it may not be necessary to attack every piece of evidence that the government is bringing forward when a successful attack on just one or a couple of those pieces of evidence will successfully win the case. That analysis needs to happen early and on a continuing basis.

Investigators will be used early and often to make sure that the defense has all the information they can obtain. The defense attorney and the defendant will build a strong relationship working closely together to identify all of the evidence against them as well as the evidence that can be used and make sure they have addressed all of those sufficiently.

Exchange of Information

At no point is the defense given access to all the information that the government may have. In the District of Columbia, the government is required in a felony case to give the defense discovery in the form of the police reports and other initial information once an indictment has been returned.

Certain pieces of information will be given by the government to the defense before that time as the case progresses, but in general, the defense will not have the bulk of the information until after an indictment occurs. If the government does not intend to use a witness and a witness does not possess information that is helpful to the prosecution, the government may never disclose or provide information to the defense about that witness. They only have to provide information of any written or recorded statements by the witness if they intend to use the witness at trial.

Aspects of Burglary Cases that Change the Nature of Defense Investigations

A burglary case involves somewhat of an unusual circumstance in which the government has to prove that an individual unlawfully entered a location and performed an act, and additionally, intended to perform some further act in the form of committing a destruction of property, theft, or other criminal act once they entered the location. Further intent is an area that the defense can specifically attack. Just because someone has entered into a location does not mean they were intending to commit a crime. That is an aspect of a burglary case that is not unique, but fairly unusual in a criminal case.

Oftentimes, burglary cases occur at night. Any kind of conduct that occurs at night may be more susceptible to bad eyewitness testimony. Typically, burglaries are performed in the dark for a reason, and can lead to incomplete or inaccurate witness testimony with regard to the individuals who were allegedly involved, particularly with identifying alleged participants based on clothing, hair color, height, and other physical characteristics. In a burglary case, just like any criminal case, all the evidence needs to be looked at closely for any kind of weaknesses, especially since some areas are unusual.

Importance of Defensive Investigations

It is critical that a defense attorney has access to his or her own investigative staff rather than having to rely on information that was gathered by the law enforcement agents involved in investigating the case. It is imperative that the defense conduct its own investigation, because this investigation is often the essential element of a successful defense.

Initial Investigative Steps

Once a lawyer has been retained, they will try to get as much information as possible with regard to accusations, alleged evidence, and useful and potentially harmful witnesses. The attorney will also seek out additional evidence and begin to locate, identify, and follow up on it as soon as possible in order for their investigators to begin looking for any potentially helpful information. One of the greatest benefits of obtaining a lawyer is that they will collect as much information as they can from the client as to the nature and specific facts of the allegations so that they can follow up as soon as possible.

In many, if not most cases involving a burglary or other felony, the defense knows that they are not going to have the full discovery of evidence right away. They want to make sure that they have identified possible witnesses, located potential video footage, and acknowledged any other pieces of evidence, because a police report detailing exactly what evidence the government has will not be immediately available.

Knowing that the government has its own evidence, the defense will do everything it can to anticipate it as well as finding evidence necessary to defend or to challenge the government’s prosecution. The specifics of what will be done depend upon the case, for example, looking for video footage depends on where the alleged incident occurred, and talking to eyewitnesses depends on if there were any eyewitnesses. Regardless, the defense will always carry out a thorough investigation to determine what evidence is out there and to obtain that evidence.