The Purpose and Type of Witness Statements

Once private investigators have established who they are going to interview, they must then determine how they are going to interview them and collect a statement. The purpose of interviewing witnesses, is to determine the facts, reduce what the interviewee knows and to record their recollections by means of a formal statement.
Once private investigators have established who they are going to interview, they must then determine how they are going to interview them and collect a statement. The purpose of interviewing witnesses, is to determine the facts, reduce what the interviewee knows and to record their recollections by means of a formal statement.

Formal statements serve as a preservation of the recollection of an event or situation by a witness both to establish what the witness knows about the matter and to provide an account of their recollection for reference. Formal statements can also aid in the potential settlement of a matter without it proceeding to trial. Finally, formal statements serve to impeach untruthful witnesses in the event of a court hearing.

There are three types of statements, which are categorized by the means used to collect them. The statement types are signed handwritten statements, audio-recorded statements and the question-and-answer statements. Each type of statement has its advantages and disadvantages, however the most preferred type of statement is the signed handwritten statement.

The signed handwritten statement is written out in longhand or typewritten by the investigator and read and then signed on the spot by the witness who has given the statement. Signed handwritten and typewritten statements are best because they allow the interviewer more control over the statement and its contents, yet the witness is also able to see what they have said and correct any inaccuracies. The witness’s signature is the most crucial part of the statement as this serves as a deterrent to any deviation from the contents of the statement.

Audio-recorded statements are the preserved recollection of a witness or conversation between the interviewer and interviewee on an audio-recording device. Audio-recorded statements can be recorded in person or over the telephone. This type of statement is generally considered to be of poor quality due to possible imperfections of the recording medium and the potential rambling nature of the witness. Audio-recorded statements are best for long-distance telephone interviews when it is not possible or feasible to interview the witness in person. Recorded statements are also useful in the case of interviewing very young witnesses, very old witnesses, or illiterate witnesses.

Finally, the question-and-answer statement occurs when the investigator conducts an interview and asks questions of the witness and the reporter is present to record both the questions asked and the corresponding answers. Utilization of shorthand or a court reporter is usually necessary to capture this type of statement. This type of statement requires a typewritten transcript of the interview. The stenographer who records the interview must also attest to the authenticity of the content. This type of statement is ideal for interviewing unfriendly or hostile witnesses, as the interviewee does not have to sign anything or speak into any device.

The three types of formal statements, signed handwritten, audio-recorded and question-and-answer each have an appropriate time and place. While signed handwritten or typewritten statements are the most preferred form of statement, they are not always feasible. Investigators need to be aware of and familiar with each type of formal statements and know when to utilize each accordingly.

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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