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Posts Tagged ‘surveillance’

Private Investigator Rates in Colorado

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

Having worked full time as a Colorado private investigator for nearly 15 years, and for over 10 years as a business owner, I’ve been able to experience the ebbs and flows – the ups and downs of the profession. Over those 15 years, I’ve  had the opportunity to network with hundreds of practicing private investigators, both full-timers as well as part-timers, and I’ve also guided aspiring private investigators who were looking at gaining entry into the profession. Those hundreds of PI’s that I’ve met have come from many walks of life. Some had prior law enforcement or military experience. Others came into private investigations with criminal justice, investigative journalism, or even law degrees under their belts. Still others started out by taking an online private investigations course, or perhaps attended one in person. Others were introduced into private investigations having had no previous exposure to any type of investigations.

With such varying levels of experience, credentials, certifications, licenses, etc. how do private investigator business owners begin to set a fee structure when they start their own companies? This is a critical question that each new business owner should consider carefully at the time that the business is started. Most private investigators have an hourly rate with expenses charged separately, others might charge a flat fee hourly rate to include expenses incurred such as mileage and travel time, and still others charge a flat fee daily rate. Some private investigators even charge on a contingency or percentage basis. However, many states have restrictions or complete bans on this type of fee structure for private investigators. To complicate the matter even further, some investigators have a lower fee for cases worked as a contract investigator versus their regular fee for cases where they are the originating investigator.

Many new investigator businesses will simply attempt to research what the going rate is for the state or region of operation and then set their rates accordingly. However, consider this: over the years I have heard of Colorado private investigators charging rates as low as $40 per hour as the originating investigator, to rates as high as $300 per hour. Wow. $40-$300 per hour! That seems like quite a disparity to me. Think about it: all other expenses and factors being equal, the $40 per hour investigator has to work 7.5 hours just to match the 1 hour worked by the $300 per hour investigator! The obvious explanation to this is the $40 per hour investigator must be an inexperienced generalist while the $300 per hour investigator must be an experienced specialist with every credential imaginable.  However, there are other variables which could factor into those rates. The $40 per hour investigator could be a part time investigator, perhaps a retired individual who receives a pension or other forms of secondary income. Those individuals perhaps view private investigations as more of a hobby or pastime.  The $300 per hour investigator perhaps has a brick and mortar office in a prime location complete with a receptionist, office manager, administrative assistant, field employees, etc. The $300 per hour investigator could also be a smaller agency that contracts out work to $100 per hour investigators and as a result still generating a good profit while having subcontractors do the investigations.

I once experienced a scenario which I had not previously been aware of or even considered. I received a phone call from a large corporation which had recently started hiring in-house investigators. The potential client wanted to know what my company’s rates were for initiating surveillance on a subject in Glenwood Springs, CO. The caller explained to me that the surveillance would span from a specific pickup point until the subject returned to their residence, so in the potential client’s words, the surveillance would only be one day. I informed the caller of my hourly rates as well as mileage and travel rates, and explained that my office was located in Castle Rock, Colorado – approximately 3.5 hours away from Glenwood Springs. To help explain the minimum travel and mileage expenses, I informed the caller that the only investigator available to cover the surveillance case would have to be dispatched from Castle Rock. The potential client stated that their in-house investigator is paid a $125 per day flat rate. After a couple of seconds of silence on the phone line, I realized the potential client wanted me to make an attempt to match that rate. I politely explained to the caller that I could not lower my rates, and perhaps the corporation should continue using their in-house investigator. Her reply was something to the effect of, “But I don’t want to use my in-house investigator.” She went on to explain that they were not pleased with the quality of investigations they were getting from the in-house investigator. I spent another few minutes on the phone with the caller, but I quickly realized she had been accustomed into believing this flat fee rate was the average going rate for investigations.

I ended the phone call unclear if the in-house investigator was an employee or if the investigator was a vendor who did all their work for this corporation. Perhaps I could have clarified the caller’s definition of ‘in-house’ investigator, and then maybe I could have explained the various expenses, taxes, operating costs, insurance, etc. that I as a business owner must incur versus an employee investigator. Perhaps I could have explained how our company specializes in surveillance, that each surveillance investigator has years of experience, and how each investigator is individually licensed in Colorado. However, in my mind I was convinced we would not come to an agreement on a rate.

So once again, what should an investigator charge? Based on all the variables, this is a difficult question to answer. Instead, I ask private investigators to take a look at other businesses and professions. For example, attorneys, like private investigators, range in size as small as sole proprietors to as large as national or even international corporations with employees numbering in the hundreds or even thousands. Some attorneys have a home office, while some have dedicated office buildings. Practically all have some form of website or other forms of internet presence. Many have memberships in professional organizations and associations.

Private investigators, like attorneys, might have to purchase similar attire as attorneys for marketing, face-to-face client relations, and testifying / providing attorney support at hearings and trials. Unlike attorneys, private investigators aren’t required to have a 4 year or higher college degree, and in many states aren’t required to pass an exam or even be licensed. So perhaps the average rate for private investigators shouldn’t be the same as the average rate for attorneys in a given state or region.

To the private investigators at the low end of the spectrum, such as in the $40 per hour range, taking a look at other businesses and their hourly charges may prove to be an indicator of how the investigator is perceived to clients as well as colleagues, inadvertently or otherwise. Plumbers who are licensed charge $45 – $150/hr. Car mechanics charge $80 – $100/hr. Are licensed and professional minded private investigators not, at the bear minimum, as valuable in terms of the services provided as car mechanics or plumbers? Those are the questions that each investigator business owner must answer when establishing their rates.

Documenting the Dynamics of Parenting Time

Friday, November 4th, 2016

divorce-pic

Like adults, children can have biases particularly in regards to their parents. Those biases are affected even more so in contentious divorces where struggles for parenting time become an emotional tug of war.

Emotions on the part of the client makes a family law attorney’s job even more difficult in determining whether concerns of the child regarding the other parent are being accurately described. Concerns for safety and the overall well-being of the children are sometimes in question and need to be taken seriously.

In addition to being helpful in determining whether drug or alcohol use is a factor during parenting time, having an accurate picture of the dynamics of the relationship can influence modification of that time. Although there may not be evidence of alcohol or drug use during visitation time, is there question of such in the hours before the child exchange? We at Advanced Professional Investigations have had cases in which we’ve documented subjects that have consumed alcohol immediately prior to a child exchange. Who is spending time with the children? Are background checks on individuals spending time with the children warranted? Unfortunately, we have had cases where new love interests or babysitters have had questionable backgrounds. Are the children being left unattended? Video documentation via surveillance can be crucial to a child custody case. Are the children in a healthy, stable, and safe environment is the ultimate question in parenting time or custody cases. There may also be a question of “quality time”. Is the other parent spending their time with the child or children or do they simply go about their daily business and leave the children in the care of others?

What are the children’s behaviors while they are spending time with that parent? Are they happy and seem content, or do they appear hesitant and fearful during their visitation?

Besides parenting time, questionable employment that would be detrimental to the emotional or physical well-being of the children may need to be answered. Is the subject working at a bar and taking the children with them during their shift for example?

Surveillance can be used to document questionable behaviors in an objective manner, providing the family law attorney with necessary information to proceed in the best interest of their client, or at times put the parent at easy knowing their child or children are well looked after while in the other’s care.

How Surveillance Can Be Beneficial

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

They aren’t situations in which we prefer to operate all the time, but there are times in life where a private investigator may be necessary. In particular, many unfortunate circumstances may require the hiring of a professional to conduct surveillance services.

At Advanced Professional Investigations, our professional private investigators will work with you to quickly and painlessly resolve your issue. We know that these situations often involve discretion and privacy, and we’re experienced at providing these and keeping you comfortable.

What are some reasons you might need our surveillance services?

Marital Disputes

One of the most common uses of surveillance is during marital disputes, an often-ugly process that can begin when someone suspects that a partner is being unfaithful but has no way to prove this. Surveillance can often be the only way to definitely prove lack of faith, which can actually be a very important factor in divorce cases.

Additionally, surveillance can be used to assist this process when children are involved. Things like quality of parental care, time constraints and potential negative issues like abuse, neglect or drug problems are all areas proper surveillance can help weed out and bring to the forefront.

Workplace Issues

Billions of dollars’ worth of products are stolen from workplaces every year by dishonest employees and scammers, but proper surveillance can put a stop to this in a hurry. A surveillance specialist like Advanced Professional Investigations can also assist with other forms of employee misconduct, including drug or alcohol use and misuse of equipment.

Worker’s Compensation and Insurance Fraud

It’s common for people to fake or exaggerate injuries or other conditions that might allow them to collect worker’s compensation or other forms of insurance without actually doing any work (or without actually getting hurt). Other forms of insurance fraud that are common include personal injury and disability claims, both also areas which can benefit from proper surveillance.

Stalking Concerns

Stalking is more common than you might believe, whether it’s in person, online or otherwise. This can include frequent trespassing on private property as well, or in some cases people who have already been issued a restraining order and may not be complying. Each of these areas can be addressed in part through surveillance, which can uncover the evidence needed to take action.

Advanced Professional Investigations is a premier private detective service in the Denver area, with years of experience conducting surveillance and other private investigative practices. Our professionals are standing by to help with all your needs.

The Highly Specialized Career of Professional Investigations

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Professional private investigations is a career that many people have a great deal of fascination about. Television and media have often depicted the private investigator as an individual who is a do-it-all, a James Bond type of figure willing to tackle and somehow successfully accomplish any type of mission, assignment, or adversity presented to the character.

In reality, professional investigators give a great deal of thought to what cases they are willing to accept. Effective and responsible investigators know that if a case is outside their area of expertise, there is a greater probability that the results of the case will not be optimal. If you are looking for an attorney to resolve a child custody matter, would you hire the attorney that specializes in bankruptcy law, immigration law, or criminal law? You will likely prefer to hire the attorney who specializes in family law, and maybe even more precisely, child custody matters.

Professional private investigators like, attorneys, have specialties of their own. When potential clients are considering whether to hire a private investigator, I will often advise them against hiring the do-it-all private investigator. The old saying, ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ certainly applies to investigations. A person who is considering hiring a private investigator should first identify what needs to be resolved or what information is being sought. The potential client can then begin looking for an investigator who specializes in obtaining the desired information or resolving the person’s matter. When contacting the investigator or investigative agency, do not hesitate to ask if they specialize in a certain area. Also, do not hesitate to ask how much experience they have in a certain area.

Advanced Professional Investigations is occasionally asked about companies that offer and provide professional services unrelated to investigations, and simultaneously have an in-house investigator or an investigations division. While it may seem tempting to go with the ‘one stop shop’ provider, the client should give consideration to a couple of important factors. First, is there a potential for the in-house investigator to have a bias, or could there be a perceived bias if the investigative findings are presented in a legal setting? Second, if investigation is one of many other professional services offered by a company, how much dedication/focus is the company giving to the investigations division of the company?

Advanced Professional Investigations, LLC is proud to be a fully independent, dedicated professional private investigations agency. What does this mean to our clients? API is able to maintain a direct, customer-focused line of communication with our clients. API obtains its information and documentation in a non-biased manner. API’s results always withstand the scrutiny of any perceived bias in a legal setting. Because API is dedicated to professional investigations, API’s investigators frequently attend conferences, courses, and training to keep on the forefront of investigations. API maintains the latest video recording equipment, with features that are designed specifically for professional investigators, not the general public. API was founded on, and continues to be focused on providing the highest quality results to our clients.

Do you have an investigative case request and you’re not sure who to turn to? Give API a call. Rest assured that if the case request is outside of our areas of specialty, we will let you know and will go the extra step of finding an investigator with the specialty you need.

Why Should Private Investigators Be Licensed?

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Over my career, I’ve mentored and helped guide countless numbers of investigators. I am very passionate about the profession, and yes I do call this a profession. I do not want to call this an industry. Why should private investigators be licensed? Quite simply, licensing legitimizes the profession. Licensing gives the public the ability to report investigator misconduct. Currently, there is no structure in place to standardize the profession. Many of us do consider private investigations as a profession. Private investigations is not just a job, a hobby, an interest, or a pastime. It’s a profession. Attorneys are required to be licensed. Private investigators frequently work cases for attorneys. We are often times asked to testify at legal proceedings. How do judges, juries, attorneys, or clients know whether the private investigator is free of criminal records? How does the court know if the investigator testifying in a sensitive, legal case is legitimate?

When I am out on a surveillance, there are two things that I pull out when I am approached by a law enforcement officer: my driver’s license and my PI license. I want to have the police officer know as quickly as possible at I am there for a legitimate purpose. A business card will not help me do that. When I am requesting a record from a court clerk or record custodian, I show my PI license card.
I’m also passionate and dedicated to being a good and upstanding business owner.  I took the slow route of learning the profession from the ground up, over many years of practice, long hours and perseverance before starting my own agency. Since I started my agency, I’ve done everything in a legitimate and legal manner. I’ve maintained an active business registration in good standing since the start of my company in 2006. I know for a fact that some investigators have expired registrations and continue to maintain PI websites and solicit PI work. Legitimizing the profession will help deter this behavior.
There are 44 other states that have mandatory licensing. Many times, a colleague in another state is looking to refer a case to an PI in Colorado. The vast majority of the time, those investigators want a Colorado PI to display proof of being licensed. How will we do that if voluntary licensure is repealed? I have unquestionably received cases as a result of having my voluntary license. Is it because I had a marketing advantage? I don’t believe so. I believe it has everything to do with consumer confidence. My existing clients know the quality of my work, but how is a first time potential client supposed to know whether I am experienced and legitimate? Mentioning a license gives them a much grater degree of assurance of that.
I have heard stories from both clients as well as other investigators of PI’s taking cases for cash, and not providing an invoice of services. Are these investigators reporting all of their income? That is difficult for me to say, but again, legitimizing the profession will help expose those who are involved in this practice and will certainly deter those individuals, or risk jeopardizing their licenses.
I’ve heard stories of investigators attempting to blackmail clients, or in extreme cases the subject of the investigation themselves, by threatening a deliberate breach of confidentiality. Is this behavior being reported? Likely not. Legitimizing the profession will help deter this behavior.

Several years ago, I had a private party call me and ask if I could conduct surveillance on his ex-wife. He stated that they were divorced, but he planned on getting back together with her. He said he was suspicious of his ex-wife’s fidelity, and wanted to determine if she was in a relationship with another man. The private party sounded nervous and tense over the phone, and had no legal purpose for the surveillance request. I had so many red flags, I knew from the beginning of the phone call that I would not accept the case. However, before I let the private party know that, he had mentioned some specific details, such as his name and the town where his ex-wife lived. Less than a week later, I heard the news on television that this person had killed his ex-wife, killed a male friend she was with, and killed himself. I immediately contacted the police in the jurisdiction to inform them of this individual’s phone call to my agency. The police had me fill out a statement. The police statement is not something that can be readily located without knowing specifically where to look. How many cases are out there like this? Did the individual eventually hire a PI to conduct surveillance on his ex-wife? Who knows. The dead don’t talk. Let’s legitimize this profession so these incidents can be more readily reported, and thus located.

The licensing of private investigators is long overdue. I ask, who would you rather use, a licensed attorney, or one who isn’t? Exactly why are barbers and plumbers allowed to be licensed, and yet private investigators have been rejected time after time? Imagine how difficult it would be to find a qualified, educated, professional attorney free of criminal records, without licensing in place. Imagine the fear of not having licensing in place for teachers, where pedophiles and felons could teach children without a system in place to screen these individuals out. Perhaps businesses and the general public would still be able to identify qualified individuals through background checks, but why should that burden be exclusively on business owners and the general public? By the way, those background checks that businesses have to undergo to find qualified candidates free of criminal records – many of those background checks are performed by private investigators. Why should private investigators with felonies and serious misdemeanors be allowed to masquerade themselves alongside law abiding, professional investigators? Let’s legitimize the profession and allow it to move forward. Let’s give consumers the confidence and assurance they need to hire a private investigator in the first place.

For more information on the most recent licensing bill introduced in the Colorado legislature, please visit
http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2014a/csl.nsf/fsbillcont/A77F6AC902F65D5987257C3000063671?Open&file=133_01.pdf

Social Media Investigations

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Most private investigator agencies provide for a “social networking search” or a “social networking background” of some sort. Usually this is done through a Google search of the person’s name, and some of the more well-known platforms (such as Facebook and Myspace) come up at the top of the list and are ‘searched’. This type of “social networking check” usually takes less than an hour.

For cases involving delicate family law matters, potential fraud, or an insurance defense case with tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential exposure, this is clearly insufficient.

API’s Advanced Cyber Profiling Division provides the answer to this potential problem. By delivering a more complete online profile to the attorney, API provides a useful tool to help limit your liability.

Beginning with a public record search as a precursor to an online profile may not seem to be intuitive, but the information discovered in such a search often proves to be invaluable, both on its own and combined with other online sources. Prior accidents, injuries, and arrests all help to form a direction toward other sources of data. Patterns begin to emerge and help to provide a better foundation as to the person’s background.

When people hear the term ‘Social Networking Site’ people generally think of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Myspace or Reunion.com – places on the internet where there are obvious interactions, or are popular, trendy and well-known. Sites that are lesser-known, that have fallen out of the limelight, are older are often overlooked, or simply have not yet gained popularity may contain incredibly valuable information for mining more sources of data.

The term “comprehensive search” in the domain of the Cyber Profile means that the full, complete data discovered will be provided. Instead of a screenshot of the front page of Myspace, for example, we provide the entire public profile view in a format that is acceptable in court.

Not everyone has a large “footprint” on the internet. Where the college student with a prolific interest in video gaming with his friends may have profiles all over the internet, others may have only one or two sites they prefer to visit- and they may use a means of communication that is not readily (or legally) available to the private investigator. A recent study this past summer has revealed that 75% of homeless people utilize at least one social networking site; even such a tiny “footprint” may help provide a direction for further investigations, such as surveillance, asset searches or witness and missing person locates. The sheer number of smartphones, hotspots and free wifi at local coffee shops and other businesses means the possibility of an online presence is greater than ever.

Cyber profiling requires attention to detail, but can provide immensely useful data. There is no “quick social networking search” with a Cyber profile. Each site often provides a small lead that carries the investigator to the next resource. Although it is not a “quick fix,” the data that is uncovered may help resolve a case and save tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run.

Surveillance – Managing the White Space

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

What is “good” surveillance? In insurance defense investigations it is often measured by the bottom-line or end result. How much video was obtained and what does that video depict? To an insurance adjuster managing a heavy case load, the bottom-line is necessarily the focus and ultimate concern. The investigative report’s time entries document occurrences relevant to the case. But for the investigator, what happens in those “white spaces” comprises most of what determines a favorable end result. Simply, it is what isn’t on the page that tells the story of effective surveillance techniques.

A typical report time entry might look something like this:

10:20 a.m. The subject departed the residence.

10:40 a.m. The subject arrived at a grocery store. Videotape was obtained…

The bottom line is a tangible result: videotape was obtained. But success or failure is determined in that seemingly irrelevant 20-minute “white space” between time entries…the active pursuit. In a seemingly uneventful 20-minute pursuit from point A to point B hundreds of variables are considered and a myriad of split second decisions are made.

There are the physical logistics of the pursuit, such as vehicle spacing, positioning, speed, direction, traffic volume, road conditions, traffic signals, road signs, etc. to consider. There is the behavior of the subject. What are his/her driving tendencies – decisive, distracted, predictable, erratic? There is consideration of direction and location. Based on what is known of the subject, what potential businesses in the area might be a destination? The investigator must be several steps ahead mentally in order to act and react quickly in the unpredictability of active pursuit. It requires acute awareness and attention to peripheral detail every moment. It is a nuanced and subtle dance and one wrong move can compromise the investigation or end the day.

Successful pursuit is a cornerstone of useful, effective surveillance. It is skillful management of this “white space” that distinguishes the bad from the good, and the useless from the valuable.

– Richard Q.

Colorado Process Servers Annual Conference and Education Seminar

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Process Servers Association of Colorado

Annual Conference and Education Seminar Agenda

Oct 13, 2012 – 8 am – 5 pm

Preliminary

  http://www.psaco.org/calendar/psaco-2012-annual-conference/

8:00 – 9:15 am PSACO State of the Association PSACO
9:15 – 10:00 am Selecting the Proper Entity Type and Independent Contractor Rules Victor Amaya – ClearPath Accounts
10:00 – 10:15 am NAPPS Promotion and Growth Ruth Reynolds

NAPPS Director

10:15 – 10:30 am Break  
10:30 – 11:00 am Effecting Service at Hospitals

 

Richard Reed

Denver Health

 

11:00 -12:00 pm Mr. Gadget – Devices available covertly documenting service, surveillance and interviews (Live Demo) Stacy Smallwood

Smallwood Investigations

Noon Lunch Break

  • Process Server Stories (Begins at 12:30 pm, in the Meeting Room for those who want to share)
 
1:00 – 1:45 pm Risk Management – Protecting Your Business and Your Personal Assets Eric Vennes

Pacific Coast Insurance

1:45 – 2:30 pm Online Marketing Trent Carlyle ServeNow
2:30 – 2:45 pm Break  
2:45 -3:15 pm Completing Tough Serves – Techniques Marshall Wolf

Risk PI

3:15– 4:00 pm Handling Contact by Local Law Enforcement and Reporting Process Server Assault Russ Hickmon

Russell A. Hickmon, LLC

4:15 – 5:00 pm
  • Getting Service By Refusal through the Courts and Testifying In Motion to Quash Hearings
  • Closing Statement
Steve Glenn

PSACO

  • Questions regarding our Industry (Developed by Ron Jamison)
  • Affirmative Defense
  • Trespass
  • Harassment/Stalking

 

 

Process Servers Association of Colorado

PSACO Business Meeting Detail

Oct 13, 2012 – 8 am – 9 am

  

8:00 – 8:15 am Welcome and PSACO Officer Introductions Cindy Johnson

Vice President

8:15 – 8:30 am PSACO Committee Reports

  • Treasury Report
  • Arbitration Committee
  • Education Committee
  • Legislative Committee
  • Membership Committee

 

Committee Chair
8:30 – 8:45 am By-Laws Amendment(s) Votes Emanual Najee-Ullah
8:45 – 9:15 am State of the Association Steve Glenn

PSACO

 

 

The Colorado PI Licensing Story

Friday, July 6th, 2012

The Colorado private investigator licensing effort, at least until the law was passed in 2011, was a 34 year effort. According to PI Museum Curator Ben Harroll, Colorado was one of one of the first states to be licensed. He references “Know The Law” The Detective Law Book and Practical Advisor published in 1898 by The Webster Detective Library, Review Publishing Company, Market and Delaware Streets, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Issue No. 3. May, 1899). The Colorado law was repealed in 1977.

The Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado was founded in 1978 to provide guidelines for a licensing statute. Several licensing efforts were brought forth by PPIAC since the license law was repealed in 1977, only to meet with defeat each time. The last effort was in early 2007 with HB07-1083. It was, as all the other efforts before it, a bill calling for mandatory licensing. I was not a Board member of PPIAC at the time. I had recently joined the association a few months before, so I did not testify at the hearing for this bill. However, I did attend the hearing and, like many other investigators, experienced the bitter taste of defeat when HB07-1083 died in the first House committee with a vote of 4-7. However, there were two important lessons that came to light. The first was that PPIAC’s largest obstacle to passing a PI licensing law was itself, as there was no consensus within the association for licensing. The second was that PPIAC needed to do something different. As the saying goes, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.”

During a visit to Colorado’s PPIAC Conference a few years ago, then NCISS President Francie Koehler was asked by a group of PPIAC members what needed to be done to finally restore licensing to Colorado. Her response to us was to develop relationships with state legislators. This was a critical piece of advice that would soon propel PPIAC into a year after year involvement in Colorado legislative matters.

PPIAC was thrown into the fire in 2010 when HB10-1012, commonly referred to as the Anti-Surveillance Bill, was introduced by insurance claimants and sponsored by Democratic legislators in a year where Democrats held the majority in both the House as well as the Senate. HB10-1012 was a bill that would have severely restricted the use of surveillance in worker’s compensation claims, and would in effect put many surveillance companies out of business in Colorado. This bill also would have likely set a bad precedence to restrict the use of surveillance for purposes other than worker’s compensation. The bill was being monitored by other states. Colorado investigators were backed into a corner. A strategy had to be quickly developed, and a game plan had to be executed. Failure was not an option.

PPIAC’s Board decided it needed a lobbyist, and an effective one at that. Where would PPIAC find an effective lobbyist? Fortunately, one of PPIAC’s past Presidents located a lobbying group owned by two former Colorado legislators. The group was brought into an association meeting for an interview. This lobbying group was subsequently hired and helped guide PPIAC in communicating with legislators, lobbying outside the House and Senate floors, and attending legislative town halls as constituents. In short, they showed PPIAC how to develop relationships with legislators.

With Democrats having control in both the House and the Senate, the Democratic sponsored bill progressed through the House along party line votes. In one of the Senate committees, PPIAC’s lobbyist identified a Democratic Senator as a potential swing vote and someone that PPIAC should talk to. This Senator, whose ex-husband had been a private investigator, was open and understood the concerns of the investigative profession. She subsequently voted opposite her party and was the lone Democrat who voted no, giving the Republicans the majority vote needed to kill the bill.

With relationships established with legislators from the anti-surveillance bill effort, PPIAC set out to introduce a PI licensing bill in 2011. PPIAC knew it needed to take advantage of the momentum provided by the anti-surveillance bill. Colorado investigators were also facing a growing urgency to restore licensing due to concerns of privacy, limiting access to records, and identity theft. PPIAC could not continue fighting bills such as the anti-surveillance bill without the credibility and vetting which comes from being a licensed state. Some Colorado legislators hinted a PI licensing bill could be in the works. Rather than be at the mercy of a legislator-introduced bill, PPIAC knew it needed to introduce a bill first.

The PPIAC Board first had to know was a consensus from its membership before it went forth with a licensing effort. PPIAC’s membership easily reached a majority consensus to move forward with licensing. A path was then carved out for the bill. Preparation began in the summer of 2010. A Licensing Committee was formed, headed by a past President of PPIAC. The committee’s duties were numerous: create a list of key points which could be used to draft a bill, raise funds for a lobbyist, and seek sponsorship from legislators.

In order to approach this licensing effort differently than other licensing efforts, PPIAC decided to seek bi-partisan sponsorship of the licensing bill. PPIAC’s Licensing Chair approached a Republican legislator who happened to be very well respected in the House of Representatives. When asked if he would be the prime House sponsor, he practically laughed. He stated he was anti-regulation and he could not support the key points presented to him by PPIAC. The key points at the time contained the mandatory wording. He suggested the bill be a voluntary license. With a voluntary license, the Republican legislator would agree to be the prime sponsor. At the suggestion of the Licensing Chair, PPIAC went forward with introducing a voluntary license bill. It was around this time that I became President of PPIAC. I realized PPIAC needed to utilize the “outside the box” approach of a voluntary license. In fact, many Colorado investigators were already voluntarily licensed, choosing to obtain their licenses from Kansas, Utah, Arizona, California, and other states.

With the voluntary wording placed in the bill, Republican law makers viewed the bill, introduced as HB11-1195, as much more palatable. The sponsor of HB1195 in the Senate was none other than the Democrat who had been the swing vote the previous year in the anti-surveillance bill.  PPIAC also added a Democrat co-sponsor in the House, for a total of 3 sponsors and the first ever bi-partisan sponsorship for a Colorado PI bill. PPIAC quickly saw the fruits of its labors, and of the long hours the Licensing Committee spent planning in 2010. The bill passed through the first House committee, which the prime sponsor chaired, with a vote of 11-0. Though the Democrats held the majority in the Senate, PPIAC nearly committed a grave error by not including a Republican Senate sponsor. PPIAC found out the Democratic sponsor’s district was a contentious one, and Republicans wanted to kill as many of her bills as they could. During one of the Senate committee hearings, the bill squeaked by with a one vote majority. One of the Democrats was wavering on voting against her party. I wondered if we would experience the “shoe on the other foot” swing that our opponents had experienced with the anti-surveillance bill. However, the Democratic Senator stood by her party. The bill went on to pass through 3 House committees, the House floor vote, 3 Senate committees, the Senate floor vote, and was sent back to the House for consideration of minor amendments adopted out of the Senate.

After all this hard work, Colorado’s governor simply needed to sign the bill to pass into law. PPIAC initially believed this would be a slam dunk as he was a Democrat, and he was establishing a reputation for vetoing very few bills which came to his desk. However, PPIAC’s lobbyist and the Senate sponsor received information indicating he was considering vetoing the bill. The lobbyist, the Senate sponsor, and PPIAC’s Licensing Chair met with the governor’s staff to discuss the bill. Finally, on the last day the governor could sign bill, in the last tense hours of the business day, the governor signed the bill, finally restoring licensing to Colorado after 34 years! The signing of the law was a team effort and demonstrated the strength in numbers as a result of reaching a consensus within the association.

With licensing passed into law in 2011, the PPIAC Licensing Chair introduced a bill in 2012 to bring the Colorado DPPA in line with the Federal DPPA. That bill quickly made its way through the legislature and was passed into law. PPIAC is currently working with the Department of Regulatory Agencies to implement the licensing rules and other details of the program, which is scheduled to begin July 1, 2012.

Through this process, I’ve taken away several important lessons. The first is that sometimes life presents you with challenges that at the time may seem extremely difficult and even insurmountable. I admit I wondered if the Licensing Committee had the time and planning necessary to introduce a licensing bill in time for the 2011 legislative session. However, how was I to know if PPIAC could succeed if it did not try? I also learned that sometimes the answers to life’s problems are right in front of you. It was, after all, the Colorado investigators who were voluntarily licensed in other states gave PPIAC the indication that a voluntary license could be successful in Colorado. I also came to understand why PPIAC’s lobbyist said it’s easier to kill a bill than it is to pass a bill. He also mentioned once you establish relationships with legislators, you have to maintain those relationships and hence the momentum. PPIAC’s legislative efforts provided me the opportunity to take away reminders to some of life’s valuable lessons. As investigators and as human beings, whether we consciously realize it or not, we are lifelong learners. These experiences showed that our association and profession is comprised of individuals that are willing to work hard to make a difference in the future of our profession and our businesses.

The Significance of PI Licensing

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Now that private investigator licensing has been restored and implemented in Colorado, many investigators have begun the process of obtaining their Colorado licenses, and some are not quite sure if a license is a worthwhile credential, or a necessity for this profession.  Several previous attempts at a mandatory PI license in the last 34 years had failed to convince Colorado legislators of the critical importance of licensing. In 2011, Colorado legislators finally agreed to pass a law that they felt was acceptable. Colorado, unlike every other state in the country, is unique in it’s licensing law in that it is a voluntary license. What this means is that every private investigator in Colorado has to make the individual decision whether to obtain a license. Some investigators are probably going to wait to see what type of benefits licensed investigators will have before they apply for a license of their own. Let’s take a look at the significance that licensing will have on the investigative profession in Colorado.

The first one is probably the most obvious reason for licensing. Every state with licensing, Colorado included, has statutes restricting licenses to individuals with criminal histories. Different states have different standards. An individual convicted of a felony will have a difficult time ever qualifying for a PI license in any state. Some states are more lenient with certain misdemeanor convictions, or the time that has passed since the misdemeanor conviction and the time of application for a license. Some states do not allow for any misdemeanor convictions at any point for an investigator to obtain and keep a PI license. Besides a background check, state licenses have an experience component for qualifying. States have differing experience provisions, so as a result some are more restrictive than others. By obtaining a license, an investigator can have the distinction of having met the minimum hours for obtaining the license.

As a business owner for a short 6 years, I’ve received many calls in that time span from colleagues across the country looking for a Colorado private investigator. Many of those colleagues, with mandatory licensing states, expect the same standard in a Colorado investigator, and would ask me if I was licensed. After explaining that there was no licensing in Colorado, many of those colleagues were shocked to hear of a lack of licensing standards. It didn’t take too many of those conversations for me to realize I needed to be licensed, regardless of Colorado previously having zero standards. My company obtained licenses in the states of Utah and Kansas. The reason for choosing those states was a practical one. Since my company’s main specialty is surveillance, I wanted to be licensed in bordering states. This way, if I was conducting a surveillance in western Colorado, my case wouldn’t be hindered with my subject crossing into Utah. Likewise if I was conducting a surveillance in eastern Colorado and the subject drove into Kansas. Mind you in my 10 years working as an investigator, I’ve only ever worked one case that originated in Utah, and one that originated in Kansas. It is the peace of mind of knowing that I can follow my subject from Colorado into Utah and Kansas that makes licensing in those states worthwhile. So what does a CO license mean for our colleagues across the country? It means they can readily find an investigator who has undergone similar licensing standards.

Another impact that licensing has for Colorado private investigators is in the legal based work that investigators are involved in. PIs are often hired to work cases that have a legal basis or purpose. Many times those cases will culminate in providing testimony in court or hearing. Licensed investigators can spend less time being qualified to provide testimony, by simply identifying themselves as licensed private investigators. Attorneys and their clients can likewise spend less time qualifying an investigator for their cases.

Another reason for a private investigator to be licensed is for records and database access. In Colorado, for example, there was previously no definition for a private investigator anywhere in Colorado statutes. As a result, there was nothing to distinguish private investigators from the general public. The only way that investigators typically identified themselves to records custodians and database providers was with business cards or business registration documents. There was the potential for an unscrupulous individual to deceptively identify themselves as a qualified investigator to obtain access to a desired record, or worse, gain access to an entire database.

So why should an investigator in practice voluntarily obtain a license when that person readily meets the state requirements and qualifications? A license serves as a credential, a recognition, a distinction, a designation that simply cannot be bypassed if that investigator is committed to being a professional. For those young, up-and-coming investigators that do not yet qualify for a license, the benefits of licensing will hopefully serve as a goal worth working towards. It is the responsibility of experienced, licensed investigators to guide new investigators towards the goal of obtaining their licenses and ensuring the future of this profession for generations to come.

For more information on Colorado’s private investigator licensing program, please visit http://www.dora.state.co.us/private-investigator/index.htm

To find a qualified professional private investigator in your area, please visit http://ppiac.org