Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

Criminal Investigation: Finding Your Inner Sherlock

Criminal investigators are responsible for conducting investigations into criminal violations of the law. They find and analyze information for the purpose of solving crimes, which typically requires the gathering of evidence and interviewing of suspects, victims, and witnesses. The purpose of these investigations is to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence to recommend prosecution for an alleged crime. Criminal investigators examine records, assist the prosecution in preparing evidence for the pre-trial, and testify in court about the evidence. Along with assisting in criminal and civil liability cases, they also work on child custody and protection cases, and missing-persons cases. They can work for private individuals, businesses, and attorneys, assisting them by connecting clues about personal, financial, and legal matters. Criminal investigators in this day and age even solve crimes that Sherlock would have never heard of, such as identity theft, illegal downloading of copyrighted material, harassing e-mails, and insurance claims.

Criminal investigators are needed wherever crimes are committed, so it is safe to say they are needed everywhere. They are employed by a variety of law enforcement agencies as well as private investigation agencies, laboratories, and many are self-employed. Since crimes occur 24 hours a day, criminal investigators may be required to work long hours on nights, weekends, and holidays. Depending on the type of case they are working on, they might be required to travel a lot, work outdoors in rugged terrain, or spend long hours in a library conducting research. Whether it’s kneeling down to take a closer look at evidence or climbing on something so they can see a crime scene from a different perspective, most criminal investigator work requires some sort of physical exertion. Given the risks associated with their work, many investigators are authorized to carry and use firearms.

If you want to find your inner Sherlock through criminal investigation, you must be detail-oriented, thorough, and have the ability to think critically. It is also important that you are an effective communicator, since you will have to provide court testimony and clearly document the details of your investigations. Although there are no formal education requirements, criminal investigators typically are college educated and have taken courses in criminal justice, police science, and computer research. Most also have prior experience conducting investigative work working in law enforcement the military, or with private investigators. The majority of states require that investigators be licensed, which may require that they meet specific requirements regarding education or work experience.

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