The Art of Interviewing A Witness

One of the primary methods of private investigators for obtaining information during an investigation is by interviewing witnesses who may possess unique knowledge. A witness (not necessarily an eyewitness) is someone with particular knowledge regarding a given situation or occurrence related to an investigation. An interview is considered successful and completed once an investigator is able to obtain the maximum amount of information from a witness regarding a given situation. The ability to conduct a successful interview however is a difficult task that requires honed skills and techniques, especially since witnesses are not initially legally obligated to divulge any information. As each witness and their particular knowledge is different, it is necessary for each interview to be approached and conducted on a case by case basis.


One of the primary methods of private investigators for obtaining information during an investigation is by interviewing witnesses who may possess unique knowledge. A witness (not necessarily an eyewitness) is someone with particular knowledge regarding a given situation or occurrence related to an investigation. An interview is considered successful and completed once an investigator is able to obtain the maximum amount of information from a witness regarding a given situation. The ability to conduct a successful interview however is a difficult task that requires honed skills and techniques, especially since witnesses are not initially legally obligated to divulge any information. As each witness and their particular knowledge is different, it is necessary for each interview to be approached and conducted on a case by case basis.

On the whole, conducting interviews is a very time consuming process. Each interview and interviewee should be approached with the appropriate preparatory care, attitude and tone. When initiating a successful interview, a private investigator must establish a respectful and genuine rapport. This starts by respecting the time of the witness and calling to schedule an appointment to interview them at their convenience in some cases. Once the interview begins, the tone will usually be established within the first few minutes. The ideal psychological climate, should be created by the investigator, using questions and remarks, to demonstrate superior knowledge regarding the subject matter under investigation. Ideally, witnesses should then feel comfortable and compelled to please the investigator with their particular knowledge and information. Of course, the attitude of each witness varies, and should be assessed accordingly. Witnesses can have a favorable or adverse attitude toward an investigation, and be helpful, reluctant, friendly or disinterested toward the interview process. A good private investigator, should promptly assess and adapt to the interview atmosphere in order to maximize the amount of information obtained. It is especially important that investigators tailor and employ appropriate techniques when interviewing child witnesses.

In the case of unfriendly or hostile witnesses, the element of surprise (no appointment or notice) may be necessary for conducting an interview. This will leave them with no time to prepare. Unfriendly or hostile witnesses should not be pressed for a formal statement until the investigator has thoroughly interviewed them and recorded ample notes. Like all witnesses, unfriendly and hostile individuals should still be treated with respect. Principled private investigators treat all witnesses with respect and know that a rapport may eventually develop in some cases.

Successful interviews with witnesses can help private investigators unearth previously unobtainable information related to an investigation. Investigators must accurately assess and adapt to each interview and interviewee to maximize that amount of information obtained. Initially conducting interviews may be quite difficult, however once skills and techniques are developed and applied, private investigators will be able to harness the full potential of interviewing witnesses to gain information in a legal and legitimate manner.

Pennington & Associates ltd. provides witness interview services. Private investigators are available for immediate service in Ohio throughout the cities of Ironton, Portsmouth, Gallipolis, Jackson, Chillicothe, Cincinnati, Columbus, and surrounding areas. Service is immediately available in West Virginia throughout the cities of Huntington, Charleston, and surrounding areas.
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