preliminary investigation | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction / Policing

A preliminary investigation consists of investigative activities that take place as soon as an officer arrives at the crime scene.

Contrast with the follow-up investigation.

A preliminary investigation is an essential part of the criminal justice process. It refers to the initial investigative activities that take place as soon as an officer arrives at the crime scene. The primary goal of a preliminary investigation is to secure the crime scene and gather as much information as possible before it is lost or destroyed.

When a law enforcement officer responds to a crime scene, their first priority is to ensure the safety of all individuals involved. They will then secure the area to prevent further harm or damage to the scene. Once the area is secure, the officer will begin to gather information about what happened, who was involved, and any potential witnesses.

The information gathered during the preliminary investigation will be used to determine whether a more thorough investigation is necessary. It may also be used to identify potential suspects and to develop leads for further investigation. In some cases, the preliminary investigation may be enough to lead to an arrest and charges being filed.

One of the primary benefits of a preliminary investigation is that it helps to preserve the integrity of the crime scene. By securing the area and gathering evidence early on, law enforcement officers can help to ensure that important information is not lost or contaminated. This can be critical in cases where physical evidence is the key to identifying and prosecuting the perpetrator of the crime.

In addition to preserving evidence, a preliminary investigation can also help to build trust and confidence in the criminal justice system. By responding promptly to a crime scene and taking the necessary steps to investigate the crime, law enforcement officers demonstrate their commitment to upholding the law and protecting the community.

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Last Modified: 04/06/2023


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