How to Become a Criminal Defense Investigator? A Step-by-Step Guide

A criminal defense investigator is a professional who works with defense attorneys to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and investigate the facts of a criminal case.

Criminal defense investigators play a vital role in ensuring that the rights of the accused are protected and that justice is served.

contacting a defense attorney
contacting a defense attorney | DAILYTIMES

If you are interested in becoming a criminal defense investigator, here are some steps you can follow to pursue this career path:

READ MORE : Can the Victim Contact the Defense Attorney? A Guide For Crime Victims

Step 1: Get an Education

The educational requirements for criminal defense investigators may vary depending on the employer and the state where you plan to work.

However, most employers prefer candidates who have at least a high school diploma or a GED certificate.

Some may also require a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, legal studies, forensic science, or a related field.

A degree program can provide you with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills you need to conduct effective investigations.

You can learn about the criminal justice system, the laws and ethics of investigation, the techniques and tools of evidence collection and analysis, and the communication and report writing skills necessary for presenting your findings.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Many employers also look for candidates who have some relevant experience in law enforcement or investigation.

This can help you develop your investigative skills, build your professional network, and demonstrate your competence and reliability.

You can gain experience by working as a police officer, a detective, a private investigator, or a paralegal.

You can also look for internships, volunteer opportunities, or entry-level positions with law firms, public defender offices, or private investigation agencies that specialize in criminal defense.

Step 3: Obtain a License

Depending on the state where you intend to work, you may need to obtain a license to act as a private investigator.

This usually involves meeting certain criteria such as age, education, experience, background check, and passing an exam.

You may also need to complete some continuing education courses to maintain your license.

A license can help you demonstrate your professionalism and credibility as a criminal defense investigator.

It can also allow you to access certain databases and records that may be useful for your investigations.

Step 4: Consider Earning Certification

Although not mandatory, earning a certification from a professional organization can help you advance your career as a criminal defense investigator.

Criminal attorney with student
Criminal Defense Student [PHOTO COURTESY OF]
It can show your commitment to excellence and your adherence to high standards of practice. It can also enhance your knowledge and skills in specific areas of investigation.

Some of the certifications you can pursue include:

Certified Criminal Defense Investigator (CCDI) from the National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI)

Board Certified Criminal Defense Investigator (BCCDI) from the Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council (CDITC)

Certified Legal Investigator (CLI) from the National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI)

To qualify for these certifications, you typically need to meet certain requirements such as education, experience, membership, ethics, and passing an exam.

You may also need to renew your certification periodically by completing some continuing education units.

Step 5: Keep Learning and Networking

As a criminal defense investigator, you should always strive to keep learning and improving your skills.

You should stay updated on the latest trends and developments in the field of criminal investigation.

You should also seek feedback from your peers and mentors and learn from their experiences and best practices.

Additionally, you should network with other professionals in the field of criminal defense.

You can join professional associations, attend conferences and seminars, participate in online forums and groups, and seek referrals and recommendations.

Networking can help you expand your opportunities, find new clients, and collaborate with other investigators.

 What does an investigator do?

A criminal defense investigator is a person who works with defense attorneys to help them prepare their cases and defend their clients.

A criminal defense investigator may do various tasks such as:

1.Conducting background checks on the accused, the witnesses, and the prosecutors
2.Visiting the crime scene and collecting physical evidence.

3. Interviewing witnesses and verifying their statements
4.Reviewing police reports, court records, and other documents
5.Finding and analyzing alternative theories and suspects
6.Preparing reports and exhibits for the court
7.Testifying as an expert witness

A criminal defense investigator’s main goal is to find the truth and present it in a way that supports the defense’s argument.

A criminal defense investigator may also help the defense attorney negotiate plea deals, reduce charges, or obtain acquittals.


Becoming a criminal defense investigator can be a rewarding career choice for those who are passionate about justice and have strong investigative skills.


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