By District Attorney Ryan Sayers
2023 Vol. 21
After a one-week detour to speak about the District Attorney’s responsibilities in regards to elections, we are back this week to explain further the different aspects of police investigations.
When an officer gets a report of a crime that needs a more in-depth or prolonged investigation, the officer has to decide what tools he or she wants to use in order to build the strongest case for prosecution.
These investigative tools/tactics do not happen in a matter of minutes and sometimes do not happen at all, which can be difficult to explain to people because of TV shows and movies placing an unrealistic expectation on the criminal justice system.
In reality, most cases do not have fingerprints, the DNA has been corrupted, there is no information on a cellphone, witnesses do not want to come forward or the weapon was discarded or destroyed.
Plus, if there is evidence to send to a laboratory, the laboratory has cases from all over the Commonwealth to process and it can take a few days to a few months to analyze before getting the results back to the investigating law enforcement officer.
Also, unlike TV shows and the movies, the procedure to get a search warrant can take a couple hours to get approved before the police can search and seize evidence, or it can take a few days or weeks for a witness/victim to setup an interview with the investigating officer.
These are some of the reasons why investigations can take months or years before a person or group of people are charged with a crime.
Plus, the prosecution and investigating officer are rightfully constrained during the investigative process because of the safeguards that are enshrined in the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions.
In the end, the prosecutors and law enforcement work with what they can and what they have to make the best case for prosecution.
Sometimes that means there is not enough evidence to file charges and other times a jury will get to see a trial that was made for TV.
Next week, I will discuss search warrants and the process that law enforcement has to go through to get one.
Ryan Sayers is the elected District Attorney of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
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