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Archive for March, 2011

The Crossroads for Colorado Private Investigators

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

In life, the greatest challenges often yield the greatest rewards. In the coming months and years, the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado will be presented with many challenges. How the association tackles these challenges will no doubt shape its future for years to come.

One of the challenges for PPIAC will be addressing the continued training of its members. Recent events not just in Denver but all throughout Colorado involving private investigators have garnered national and in some cases international media attention. PPIAC has the responsibility of ensuring that its members receive the necessary continuing education and training to provide professional results to our clients. Emerging technology has brought with it emerging legislation. Recently-introduced information sources and websites have brought legislation restricting what information can be used and how it can be used.

Another one of the challenges facing PPIAC will be attracting the brightest, most skilled, qualified, professional private investigators in Colorado. For PPIAC to continue to survive and thrive, it must provide incentives for professional-minded private investigators to want to join a network of existing investigative professionals. PPIAC must foster professionalism with its own members, which will in turn provide an attractive atmosphere for future members. PPIAC will be faced with the challenges of bringing in private investigators which will promote the continued growth of the association.

PPIAC must also identify ways to ensure the public is protected. PPIAC must educate the public to include our clients about the lack of licensing regulations for private investigators in Colorado. PPIAC must encourage and provide the public with the tools to do their own due diligence prior to choosing a PI. PPIAC members who receive complaints from the public about improper conduct and actions of other investigators should direct the public to the proper agencies who can address these actions. DORA ( the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies) and the Denver / Boulder Better Business Bureau are two avenues where the public can be directed to log complaints. Directing the public to PPIAC and its background checked members will encourage public awareness of the association.

PPIAC also has the responsibility of changing the mindset of how private investigators are viewed. The public’s perception, to this day, tends to be what is presented by the movies and television shows. The only way for the public to start viewing investigators as professional is for investigators themselves to view and hold themselves as professionals. PPIAC members must take the initiative to break the stereotype of the shady, lurking in the shadows and bushes, booze bottle in the bottom drawer of the desk to the business minded, law abiding, trained, aware-of-current-regulation professionals the public deserves to have.

PPIAC has the responsibility of monitoring, addressing, and even introducing legislation which affects private investigations in Colorado. By taking a proactive, rather than a reactive approach, PPIAC can more effectively direct the outcome of legislation.

So the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado is at a crossroads. What type of association does it hope to be? What type of association does it want to continue to be? What will be the outcome of those decisions? Will members be content with the outcome of those decisions? PPIAC has and will continue to depend on the involvement of its members to affect the type of association, and the type of profession for that matter, that its members want. Colorado private investigators should consider helping shape the future of investigations in Colorado through membership in the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado. Please visit www.ppiac.org for more information.

Limiting Liability for Surveillance Investigators

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Note: The following article was originally published in the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado members-only newsletter for September 2010. For more information, please visit www.ppiac.org

Surveillance is often perceived (in an erroneous manner) as being a fairly simple task: follow a subject from point A to point B. Those who have attempted to put that fairly simple plan into execution quickly realize that the many details that are initially overlooked can be crucial factors in determining whether a surveillance investigation will be successful or not. The most important of these factors for the surveillance investigator to consider is what liability could fall back on that investigator for taking any particular case. 

One way to limit liability, which must be considered before the case is ever accepted, is to determine if there is a legal purpose for taking the case. Is there a court case that has been filed? If so, get the case number and obtain the documents detailing the case. If a court case has not been filed, it does not necessarily mean there is no legal basis to conduct the surveillance investigation. It does, however, expose the operative to a higher liability. Picture yourself having to explain to a judge why you decided to take on that surveillance investigation simply because your client was ‘curious.’ 

Does the potential client have an attorney? If so, consider taking the case from the attorney. Talk to the attorney and find out what particular information or documentation he/she needs to have a successful outcome, rather than what information or documentation the private client WANTS. Taking the case from the attorney, dealing with the attorney during the actual investigation, and turning the final work product over to the attorney rather than the private client limits liability.

When dealing with all investigations (and certainly with surveillance investigations) you can limit liability by being selective in releasing third party information to clients. Many private clients want to know who, what, where, when, and why any time a third party enters the picture. By remaining focused on the subject that the client has the legal proceedings with rather than veering off course, liability on the investigator or investigative agency can be limited.

Liability in surveillance investigations can certainly be minimized by not accepting surveillance cases which involve a ‘confrontation’ or approaching the subject ‘in the act.’ Certain television reality shows have popularized the idea that it is common for an investigator to assist the client in a confrontational scenario, particularly with infidelity investigations. Leave the confrontations or ‘busts’ to law enforcement. If you are witness to a situation where a person or animal is in imminent danger and you feel compelled to intervene, know that you are doing so as a private citizen and not in response to that lifelong desire to be a police officer.

 Surveillance investigators should exercise caution in giving clients ‘on the spot’ updates regarding a subject’s location. Typically, Advanced Private Investigations gives an email update at the end of each surveillance day. Occasionally, a phone update may be given particularly if additional authority is needed to continue the surveillance investigation. However, clients that want detailed descriptions of who the subject is with and what they look like, precise location of the subject, vehicle descriptions and locations, etc. should raise red flags with the surveillance operative. Limit the possibility of a confrontation with the subject and the client, and hence your liability, by not providing instant updates out in the field.

Surveillance investigators should think twice about bringing others out on cases. The public can tend to be extremely curious about what we as surveillance operatives do, but there is the remote possibility, that the investigator will be involved in an unexpected confrontation BY the subject or an overzealous neighbor, or that the investigator will be involved in an auto accident during the course of a mobile surveillance. Surveillance investigators in Colorado have the extra challenge of being involved in sunny, dry conditions in downtown Denver or Cherry Creek only to run into heavy snow as the subject is followed Having passengers during a surveillance will make for undue insurance claims if the PI is ever in an accident. It goes without saying that the client should not be involved in the surveillance with the investigator. Clients, particularly in a highly emotional state, can only serve to complicate the surveillance, cause the subject to become aware of surveillance, engage in a confrontation regardless of the investigator’s advice, or disrupt the surveillance in other ways.

Private Investigator Fees

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Many clients will get tunnel vision when it comes to the hourly fee of the private investigator or detective and they use this factor as the only one in picking an investigator. This, of course can be a major mistake. You are not shopping for a shirt; you are shopping for a PROFESSIONAL service; one which requires skill, experience, and knowledge. A client should always look at the case as if it will go to court, even if it never does. It is very difficult to compare ‘apples to apples’ in picking a private investigator. More appropriate questions that clients can ask in reference to cost are: Can the client set a cap on the fees and expenses of the case? Can the private investigator give an estimate of the cost of completing the case?

Private investigators and detectives have different fees depending on the case. The fees can include travel time, mileage charges, toll charges, hotel/meal reimbursements, report fees, court copy/document retrieval fees, court preparation and testifying fees, video/audio copy fees, telephone calling cards, etc. The private investigator should also give updates or progress reports. Keep in mind, however, that with all other charges being equal, if a $75/hour Denver surveillance investigator can give the same results in 5 hours versus a $60/hour Colorado Springs surveillance investigator can give in 10 hours, which is the better deal?          

 Choosing a private investigator is not always an easy process. However, the same way you would choose an attorney with the right specialties, qualifications, experience, references, etc. to represent your case, so should you choose a private investigator, or better yet, a professional investigator. In the end, the time, energy, and money will be well worth it.

Colorado Private Investigator License Bill Passes Finance Committee

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Denver, CO

Colorado HB11-1195, also known as the Colorado Private Investigator Voluntary License Bill passed the House Finance Committee on March 23, 2011 with a vote of 8-5. Representatives DelGrosso, Swerdfeger, Hullinghorst, Acree, Conti, Duran, Joshi, and Kagan voted in favor of the bill. Representative Bob Gardner is the prime sponsor of the bill with with Representative Su Ryden co-sponsoring HB1195. In the Colorado Senate, HB1195 has obtained the sponsorship of Senator Linda Newell.

House Bill 1195 was introduced as the result of a PI licensing committee formed by the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado. Professional private investigators believe the option of a voluntary PI license offers ethical, professional minded private investigators in Colorado a means to distinguish themselves and highlight their background and experience. It allows the citizens, attorneys, and business people of Colorado who rely on private investigation services to more easily identify those private investigators who are qualified professionals.

The bill would allow private investigators to voluntarily obtain a license and be known as Licensed Private Investigator. HB1195 provides a penalty for a Colorado private investigator who holds him/herself out to be a Licensed Private Investigator. The PI faces a Class 2 misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class 1 misdemeanor for each subsequent offense. Currently, Colorado does not provide any licensing, education, training, or insurance requirements for private investigators, private detectives, or private investigations agencies.

Colorado HB 11-1195 now moves to the House Appropriations Committee.

National Investigative Agencies Vs. the Local PI

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Although national private investigative agencies may seem better suited to handle a case, this is rarely true. For a Colorado investigation case, there is no better investigator than a Colorado private investigator who is familiar with where the courts are, the towns, the streets, shortcuts to get from point A to point B, etc.  A surveillance investigator who is flown in to Denver from Boston to conduct surveillance is instantly at a disadvantage from a Denver surveillance operative or investigator who has been conducting surveillance in Denver for years and knows the neighborhoods and demographics of the area.

Also, the local PI agency will most likely turn over the completed case and billing to the client quicker than a national investigation agency based out of state. The client has a better opportunity of meeting with the private investigator face-to-face with a local agency rather than one based out of state.

A fact that is not well known outside the private investigative community is that national companies usually use local investigators as sub-contractors to do cases. If the client hired the sub-contractor investigator directly, the same product could be received in a shorter time and likely for less money as there is no middle man. There are many national companies that advertise as having local offices in Colorado. However, most of these companies just have a post office or mail drop as an address to give the illusion of having a Colorado office.

Advanced Private Investigations is proudly based in Colorado, between Denver and Colorado Springs. We are actively involved in the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado, or PPIAC for short. For more information on PPIAC, please visit www.ppiac.org

Client Interviews and PI Equipment

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

The client will most likely feel like they are being interviewed by the private investigator or detective prior to taking on a case. Ethical and smart private investigators will make sure that the case request is genuine and there is a legal purpose for doing the investigation. The client should be prepared prior to contacting the PI by having a court order, a court case number, attorney contact information, and any other information pertinent to the case to demonstrate the legality and legitimacy of the case. The PI must safeguard against the results being misused. Investigative agencies will likely use a contract which will detail the type of case that is being requested, the uses for the investigation results, and a release of liability holding the private investigator harmless if the results are misused.

An important consideration in hiring a private investigator is to ask what equipment the investigator has pertaining to the specific type of case being requested. Investigators who specialize in electronic bug detection should have equipment on hand to discover wire taps and hidden cameras. Surveillance investigators and operatives who specialize in child custody, family law, employee misconduct, infidelity, court order violations, etc. should have video cameras, still shot cameras, and covert/body worn cameras on hand to conduct surveillance.

Noting A Private Investigator’s Appearance and Writing Ability

Friday, March 18th, 2011

This is often an overlooked quality in an private investigator or detective but one which can greatly impact a case. In meeting with a private investigator, the client should note how the investigator is dressed. Remember, this is a profession and a PI should act and dress in a professional manner. If the investigator is not well-groomed and appropriately dressed in meeting with you, it is likely he/she will not look appropriate if he/she has to testify in court on your case. The same way an investigator pays attention to small details in their investigations, the attention to detail should also carry over to his or her appearance. An exception to this rule is a surveillance investigator who is on site. A 10 hour surveillance investigation in the summer is usually going to call for shorts and a tank top or similar clothing to maintain comfort.

Websites and online postings, brochures, business cards, and other writings should be looked at to determine a private investigator or agency’s writing ability. Spelling and grammar should be noted. Poor spelling and grammar will translate into a poor report. API’s philosophy is that the report makes at least half of the entire investigation. If an investigation does not have a well written, accurate, and concise report to go along with it, the evidence may not be able to be well presented in court. Most reports should contain only facts and not the investigator’s opinion, otherwise opposing council can and will pick apart the investigator in a court hearing.

Private Investigator Insurance

Monday, March 14th, 2011

An important consideration that often reveals the full-time, professional and qualified PI agencies from the part-timers (and most likely less experienced) is to look at the insurance that the private investigator/agency carries. Particularly since Colorado does not license or otherwise provide guidelines for private investigators and their insurance coverages, the responsibility falls on the client to choose an insured investigative agency. Most insurance companies, law firms, and corporate clients require a $1,000,000 per occurrence liability insurance to be in place prior to using the investigator’s/agency’s services. A certificate of insurance should be requested to verify the policy information. The insurance protects the investigative agency as well as well as the client. Clients need to be aware that there have been instances of private investigators knowingly, or perhaps due to lack of training, cause harm to themselves or the subject(s) of their investigation. Because of the nature of private investigations, PIs are involved in legal matters and can be suseptible to facing legal action themselves. Private investigators, detectives, and surveillance operatives are typically involved in a lot of travel, even during the worst of Colorado conditions, so the risk of accident can be high. Also, because of activities such as service of process, interviewing hostile witnesses, and otherwise involvement in cases that can create confrontations on the PI, insurance is critical. If the private investigator/agency objects to showing proof of insurance, they probably don’t carry it. Ask if the PI or investigative agency has ever had to make a claim on their insurance, and if so, get the details.

Private Investigations and Professional Organizations

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Private investigators who are professional and passionate about their industry are more than likely going to be involved in associations/organizations and the PI community in general. This is often a way to “weed out” the fly-by-night companies from the respectable investigative agencies who utilize competent, qualified investigators. The Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado is an organization based in Denver where investigators and private detectives network and train with each other. PPIAC constantly monitors legislative bills which could potentially affect the way private investigators can operate in this state. In fact, PPIAC has lobbied to bring investigator licensing to Colorado.

Other professional and national organizations to look for depending on their areas of specialization include: the National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI), the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), and the National Council of Investigation and Security Services (NCISS). Memberships in these organizations as well as others may give an indication of a company’s standing in the investigative community. Fly-by-nighters and shady investigators likely won’t care to be involved with organizations or other investigative agencies for fear of exposure. The shady types also won’t care about most legislative efforts which pertain to the investigative community as they often use unscrupulous methods to conduct their private investigations anyway.

Colorado Private Investigators Need Background Checks Too!

Friday, March 4th, 2011

The first thing to look for in a private investigator and/or investigative agency is their background and qualifications. Of course if the average person could conduct a thorough background, there would be no need for hiring private investigators to conduct background checks. A character investigation on the individual as well as verification of the investigator’s qualifications and experience should also be considered. With no PI licensing requirements in Colorado, there is only one known investigative organization in Colorado which conducts background checks/character investigations on its members: the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado or PPIAC for short. This organization verifies the hours of experience of its members and appoints membership levels based on the hours of experience. Many investigators and private detectives in Colorado obtain a PI license in other states as a way to display credibility and credentials above their peers in the state. A private investigator who wishes to obtain a license in another state must pass a background check as well as display a minimun

                As with other professions, the Better Business Bureau should be checked to determine if there are any consumer complaints filed against an investigative agency.

                Make sure to ask the investigator how many years of experience he or she has, particularly in the specific type of case that he or she will be working. A good question to ask is how many cases in a specific field that investigator has worked in the past year. Another question to ask is whether there are any other investigators other than the one being interviewed that will be working on the case. A surveillance investigator will probably not be the best bet in conducting a computer forensics investigation, and vice versa. College education, though not necessary, can give an indication as to the investigator’s research abilities, report writing abilities and overall intelligence.