Preliminary Investigation: Definition, Steps, Analysis & Example

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Preventive Patrol: Definition, Study & Experiment

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 What Is a Preliminary…
  • 0:30 Steps
  • 1:33 Analysis
  • 2:08 Example
  • 3:20 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed Audio mode

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

Discover what a preliminary investigation is. Review the definition and look at the steps involved in this type of law enforcement investigation. Examine the preliminary investigation process and gain insight through analysis and an example.

What is a Preliminary Investigation?

Chances are that you've watched an episode of television's Law and Order. In Law and Order, the first half of the show is devoted to police work and investigation, while the second half pertains to the legal system. During the police work section, the crime is investigated. This typically involves a preliminary investigation of the crime. Preliminary investigation is a process that includes all of the activities a responding police officer performs at the scene of the crime.


Step 1. In a preliminary investigation, the officer must first attend to any injured parties and obtain proper care for them. This step includes checking vital signs, calling an ambulance and working with EMTs if necessary.

Step 2. Next, the officer observes the scene. This observation includes the position of the victim, any items near the victim, and any unusual activities at the scene.

Step 3. Next, the officer will make a determination that a crime was committed. Once this occurs, the officer will begin an enforcement action. An enforcement action includes pursuing an offender, making an arrest, or sending out an identifying description of the offender for other officers to utilize.

Step 4. Furthermore, the officer will secure the crime scene, making sure that any evidence is preserved and no one tampers with anything at the scene.

Step 5.Next, the officer will interview witnesses in order to obtain witness statements.

Step 6. Finally, the officer compiles a report of his or her work. All of this information is used in the formal post-crime scene investigation.


An officer's analysis of a crime scene typically begins as soon as the officer receives a call. The officer takes note of any vehicles leaving the scene or any suspicious observers at the crime scene. The officer then typically speaks to any observers or witnesses to gather information. Thereafter, crime scene investigators arrive.

Crime scene investigators are experts trained in forensics. These investigators conduct such activities as photographing the scene, taking fingerprints, interviewing witnesses and more. All of this information provides the basis of an officer's analysis.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account