Following the tragic shooting on July 4, 2022 in Highland Park, Illinois, law enforcement named Bobby Crimo as a person of interest.  Tuesday Morning, July 5 he was taken into custody as a suspect. By Wednesday, July 6, Crimo was referred to as the suspect accused of killing and injuring multiple people in the July 4 Highland Park shooting. 

Why wasn’t Crimo called a “suspect”immediately if the police had a hunch he did it? This article explains the difference between a person-of-interest and a suspect and what to do if you are being investigated as a person of interest. 

Is a Person of Interest the Same as a Suspect?

While a “person-of-interest” and a “suspect” might sound the same, there is a difference. Both terms are used for someone who is under investigation by police, but knowing the difference can change what the subject can expect from law enforcement and can make a big difference in what actions police are legally able to take. 

What is a Person of Interest?

Being considered a person of interest is nothing to take lightly. If you are considered a person of interest, you may have been involved in a crime and law enforcement would like to gather more information. At this point police do not have enough evidence to take action, such as file charges or arrest.

Police can and will interview people who know the person of interest to gather as much information as they can without a warrant. Rest assured, if you are a person of interest police will want to talk to you. 

Running from police or trying to work things out on their own are common mistakes for those being investigated by police. If the person of interest runs, law enforcement will look for them aggressively and gather information simultaneously. On the other hand, some people naively think they can go “work things out ” without a working knowledge of criminal investigative procedures.

Not all persons of interest become suspects of a crime. 

What Is A Suspect?

Once police have forwarded enough evidence to the prosecutor to show there is reason to believe the person has committed a crime, they become a suspect. At that point, search warrants may be issued, and the subject can be arrested. 

If the evidence collected during the investigation is sufficient for the prosecutor, the suspect may become accused of a crime. 

The US Constitution affords every citizen who is suspect or is accused of a crime, the right to representation. The purpose is to ensure fairness for the accused whether they are guilty or innocent. While fairness in any system can never be absolutely guaranteed, experienced legal representation can help ensure that each of the many steps in the criminal proceedings are appropriately followed to provide the best opportunity for a fair and just outcome.