Criminal Defense Investigations

A Background in Criminal Defense Investigations

Mike Spencer knows how police operate and how to successfully investigate criminal defense cases. He started as a daily newspaper reporter covering the police beat in California and in Florida more than 25 years ago. His education and learning about criminal defense issues is ongoing. Perhaps in no other area of private investigations is experience as important as in criminal defense. Spencer uses his education, experience, training and passion to help defense attorneys and clients obtain the best results. He has conducted hundreds of defense investigations in court-appointed and in privately retained cases.

Contra Costa Superior Court, Martinez, California

Contra Costa Superior Court, Martinez, California


Mike Spencer reads police reports for a living. As a reporter, he became familiar with police reports, detective requests for search warrants and how, in general, officers, detectives and commanders function. He quickly spots questionable language and dubious statements in police reports. He continued from reporter to private investigator with a steady diet of work in criminal defense cases as a court-appointed investigator in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. He also handled court-appointed and privately retainer work as a defense investigator in federal cases. He is certified in standardized field sobriety tests and has completed training in digital evidence and social media. His work as a former professional journalist and writer makes his reports detailed and easy to read for defense lawyers in criminal defense investigations.

Range of Cases

Spencer investigates everything from misdemeanor DUI cases to homicides and white collar crime. His former clients in criminal defense investigations include Hells Angels, alleged members of Asian gangs and financial executives. His instincts and training start at the very moment he gets a report from an attorney and meets with the client. The breadth of his cases in criminal defense investigations helps you and your attorney win your case. Spencer testifies in everything from homicides in Oakland to misdemeanor battery cases in Hayward. Not all private investigators come across well to a jury or to a judge. You want your private investigator to have courtroom presence and polish.

The Role of Police vs. The Role of The Private Investigator

From the time police first contact you or respond to a complaint, they are looking to establish probable cause for an arrest. The bar to probable cause rests very low. Police work under time deadlines and other pressures. Their priority is to make an arrest. They are not there to exonerate someone or bring up factors that might point to another suspect. Everything you say in the presence of police, in the back of a squad car or in custody will likely be recorded. Police will manipulate you when you insist on your right to be represented by legal counsel.

Mike Spencer in his criminal defense investigations in the San Francisco Bay Area spots questionable language in police reports. He has an advanced sense of detecting lies and information that’s been omitted from police reports. It’s just as important to learn the questions that were not asked as the ones that were. A good private investigator looks at a criminal defense case with an open mind and is the eyes and ears in the field for your attorney.

Locating People and Witnesses in the San Francisco Bay Area

Mike Spencer routinely finds difficult to locate witnesses. Because of his considerable experience interviewing witnesses, he develops a rapport with people who might be very afraid of talking. Sometimes, not being an ex-cop works to his advantage when he approaches witnesses. In the private sector, he knows you can’t bulldoze or intimidate people. He has canvassed for witnesses to police shootings in San Francisco housing projects and in tough neighborhoods throughout the East Bay. As in his other cases, he has references from some top attorneys throughout California.

Good Working Relationships with Law Offices

“My approach and goals are to help criminal defense clients while integrating with their lawyers and office staffs,” Spencer says of criminal defense investigations. “We are all on the same team.” Criminal defense cases are unique in the time challenges they present. They can often drag and then move forward with great bursts of activity. You need a private investigator who responds on a moment’s notice. Mike Spencer is the best choice in Northern California for privately retained and court-appointed defense investigations. He is on the approved lists for court-appointed investigators in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.