Your arrest by Florida police or other agents may have been a confusing time. Officers likely searched you, took your photograph and fingerprinted you. They may have confiscated your clothing and other personal belongings, and they may have taken other samples from you, such as your handwriting, saliva or hair. Any of these may become part of the evidence prosecutors will use against you in court.
When you face criminal charges, police will conduct a thorough investigation to gather enough evidence to make a case against you. Depending on the type of crime you stand accused of committing, police may spend a great deal of time collecting evidence from the crime scene. Because you will probably not be present when investigators gather information, it may help you to have a general idea of the process.
Evidence at the scene
Police officers and crime scene investigators have special training to recognize details most people might miss. For example, if a perpetrator leaves a weapon at the scene of a homicide, the position and condition of the weapon will provide important information to detectives. The weather and other environmental factors at the time of the crime also play an important role in the condition of any evidence they may find, including:
- Clothing or fibers
Investigators will also take photographs and measurements of the scene. However, they will collect any physical evidence in protective bags, label each bag and transfer the evidence to labs or storage facilities for processing. Your property and other evidence may change hands many times before a jury sees it and weighs it along with the other evidence against you. The chain of custody is an important factor since any misstep may contaminate evidence or render it inadmissible.
Witness testimony and your rights
Detectives will question you about the events of the crime. Before they speak to you, they must inform you of your right to refuse to answer questions and your right to have an attorney present during questioning. Investigators will likely speak to others about you and try to link you to the crime. Witness testimony is not always reliable, however, and an experienced attorney will have the skill to effectively cross-examine such witnesses.
At any time during the investigation, your rights may be violated through unlawful searches, refusal to allow you legal counsel or the improper handling of evidence during its collection, transfer, processing or storage. For this reason, it is critical to have a legal advocate who can evaluate your case and fight to exclude any questionable evidence against you.