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Archive for April, 2011

Colorado Private Investigators Bill Passes Committee In Denver

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

On Wednesday, April 6th, 2011, the Colorado House Appropriations Committee convened at the Capitol in Denver, Colorado and passed HB11-1195, the Colorado Private Investigator Licensing bill with a vote of 12-1. The PI license bill has now passed through the House Judiciary Committee with a vote of 11-0, the House Finance Committee with a vote of 8-5, and the House Appropriations Committee with a vote of 12-1. The next step for HB1195 is the House floor where it will be voted on by the Colorado House of Representatives.

Colorado has not had licensing in the state since 1977. Several attempts at licensing have been introduced by the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado in the past, only to have those attempts die. The Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado finally believes it has a winning formula in the form of a bill which has bi-partisan sponsorship. HB1195 is sponsored by Bob Gardner (R) in the House as well as by Su Ryden (D) in the House. In the Senate, HB1195 is sponsored by Linda Newell (D). By laying the foundation of bi-partisan sponsorship as well as riding on the momentum and experience created by the defeat of Colorado HB10-1012 (also known as the Colorado anti-surveillance bill) PPIAC has gained unprecedented ground in the goal of having its professional minded investigators be able to hold the title of Colorado Licensed Private Investigator.

How DORAs Recommendation Affects Colorado Private Investigators

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Since 1977, Colorado private investigators have been without PI licensing. The Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado, founded in 1978, was formed to improve the credibility of private investigators, and to provide guidelines for a licensing statute in the State of Colorado. In looking at PPIAC’s history, the statement, “Our continuing efforts to strive for licensure remain undaunted” still holds true today.

Early this year, PPIAC brought forth HB11-1195, a voluntary private investigator license bill in anticipation of a favorable recommendation from DORA, the Department of Regulatory Agencies located in Denver, Colorado. On February 17, 2011, DORA issued the 2011 Sunrise Review for Private Investigators. In the 21 page report, DORA discusses several levels of regulation: Licensure, Certification, Registration, and Title Protection. Each level of regulation offers different levels of restriction and public protection.

According to DORA’s report, since 1984 there have been four sunrise reviews (1985, 1987, 2000, and 2006) related to private investigators. Each of the four sunrise reviews recommended against regulation due to the lack of harm to consumers. According to DORA’s most recent (2011) report, there now is “a potential that consumers may be harmed financially by PIs if they fail to complete agreed upon services. As such, PIs should be regulated by the State of Colorado and be required to possess either a surety bond or errors and omissions insurance.”

So what is the significance of DORA’s 2011 recommendation? First, DORA has issued a recommendation that is opposite and contrary to its four prior sunrise review recommendations. Moreover, DORA has recommended that Colorado private investigators be regulated. According to DORA’s report, licensure, certification, registration, and title protection fall under their definition of regulation.

For PPIAC’s licensing effort, the worst case scenario would have been for DORA to issue a recommendation consistent with the four prior sunrise reviews. With DORA’s 2011 Sunrise Review, Colorado has a non-investigator entity and a State entity for that matter issue a recommendation that private investigators be regulated as a result of public harm. DORA’s recommendation thus helps pave the way for Colorado private investigators to raise the standard of professionalism as well as to provide a united, vetted voice through a licensing program.

Please visit www.ppiac.org for more information on the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado.

More Limiting Liability for Surveillance Investigators

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

During the course of a surveillance, a private investigator should always keep in consideration the REASONABLE EXPECTATION OF PRIVACY of not just the subject, but anyone who the surveillance investigator encounters during the operation. Note that by its very name, the term reasonable expectation of privacy is subject to interpretation. What may be reasonable to one person may be unreasonable to another. However, in general any time the subject is easily viewed with the naked eye to the general public or passersby has no reasonable expectation of privacy. When the subject is behind closed doors or in their back yard enclosed by a privacy fence, there is typically a reasonable expectation of privacy that must be respected. Not considering an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy will likely place surveillance investigators under increased liability.

 Another important consideration in surveillance investigations is to be respectful of private property. Trespassing on private property can not only place liability on the PI, but it can serve to have the investigator’s work be thrown out of a court case. Surveillance investigators should establish stationary surveillance points on public right of ways and parking lots that are readily accessible to the public. Establishing a stationary surveillance point on private property should only be done with the permission of the property owner. In rural areas, keep in mind public lands that can serve as a possible surveillance point.

 The subject of harassment, stalking, and restraining orders also must be considered during all surveillance investigations. The surveillance operative who has taken the time to ensure that there is a lawful purpose for the surveillance, has remained within the boundaries of the law AND has taken care to ensure the surveillance has remained covert, is generally able to avoid any harassment, stalking, or restraining order issues. Typically, a private investigator who has a restraining order placed against them or is charged with harassment or stalking can be pinpointed back to the investigator being discovered during surveillance. On a post-surveillance basis, the PI should be concerned about harassment, stalking, or restraining orders if a lawful purpose for surveillance was not determined prior.  

 The use of GPS tracking devices has been the subject of many discussions and debates amongst private investigators as well as with the public. In Colorado there was a recent incident in which a private investigator was charged with stalking following the placement of a GPS tracking device on the subject’s vehicle. This has sparked many questions as to the legality of this technology.

 In terms of the use of GPS tracking devices, API favors California’s statute regarding their use. The statue is copied and pasted below:

 California Tracking Device Law: California Penal Code section 637.7 states: (a) No person or entity in this state shall use an electronic tracking device to determine the location or movement of a person. (b) This section shall not apply when the registered owner, lesser, or lessee of a vehicle has consented to the use of the electronic tracking device with respect to that vehicle. (c) This section shall not apply to the lawful use of an electronic tracking device by a law enforcement agency. (d) As used in this section, “electronic tracking device” means any device attached to a vehicle or other movable thing that reveals its location or movement by transmission of electronic signals. (e) A violation of this section is a misdemeanor.

 Though GPS tracking technology is not illegal in Colorado, what many surveillance investigators overlook is that the placement of the device on the vehicle could entail trespassing on private property or tampering with personal property. There have been investigators in Colorado that have faced legal battles for the placement of tracking devices on vehicles. As the California law states, the tracking device may only be placed with the permission of the owner, lesser, or lessee. If a surveillance operative has to crawl under the vehicle in the cover of darkness, it’s certainly an admission that the activity is not on the “up and up.” It’s not a big stretch of the imagination that if the subject of the surveillance investigation catches the investigator crawling under the vehicle without consent, the subject might believe the investigator is placing a bomb, cutting a brake or fuel line, or in the process of some other malicious activity.  

Please visit www.ppiac.org/newsletter for more articles on Colorado private investigations topics.