The other night I caught a bit of the classic movie Chinatown on television. Watching this again after so many years, I found myself amused at how the main protagonist, private investigator J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson) collects evidence. Through the course of the film, he answers to no one, and does whatever he feels like to produce results that satisfy his own curiosity.
The single most important aspect of a professional private investigator is gathering evidence that is court-admissible. In this post, I talk about this, and the dangers of taking shortcuts to produce results.
At Martin Investigative Services, I typically hire only investigators that are former Federal agents, or those that have had careers in some sort of law enforcement. It’s important to me that these investigators have truly mastered is the art of interview and interrogation. I require this not just because these people have professional investigative training and experience, but more importantly because they know how to produce court-admissible evidence.
Many private investigators were formerly in law enforcement, because investigative experience is part of the requirements to be a private investigator. For example, if you want to become a private investigator in the State of California, you have to have at least 6000 hours of compensated investigative work while employed by law enforcement agencies or other professional private agencies.
So with that experience, you would think that most private investigators would clearly know the value of producing court-admissible evidence. I think they do, it’s when they start cutting corners and skirting the law that things get ugly. I think the case of this that everyone remembers is that of investigator Anthony Pelicano, who was arrested and convicted for illegal wiretapping.
Bugs, wiretapping, and illegal cameras
Like Pelicano, there are plenty of people out there that regularly break the law when trying to get information about others. I see this each and every month, when we actually find illegally placed bugs during our professional bug sweeps. Take a look at some of the actual bugs we’ve found.
Never mind that using bugs or cameras to spy on others is typically a felony violation. The people that place these bugs care about producing results and getting an edge. They don’t care that they are breaking the law, or the fact that they are opening up their clients in a very serious legal predicament.
When someone is spying on you
Eavesdropping laws are there to protect you. If you suspect you are a victim, be it personal or in the corporate world, call an experienced bug sweep investigator. Not all are equal. It requires not only experience, but a continual (and costly) investment in the equipment that detects the full spectrum of bugs and cameras. These devices evolve with the times, and the detection equipment has to be updated to evolve with it.
Nobody is above the law
In 2011, reporters hacked the voicemail of a murder victim while a police investigation was still going on. The scandal shut down the famous News of the World tabloid. This particular scandal will lead to even more regulations that will influence privacy laws worldwide.
Whether you are an attorney who is seeking proof, or just trying to find out if your spouse is cheating, you don’t want an investigator that takes shortcuts. Hire only those investigators that understand that everything they do on a case may be one day in front of a judge or jury.
When evidence for a case is gathered illegally, not only will it be barred from being admitted into court as evidence, the client is surely going to lose the case, and it’s likely going to open the client up for prosecution and expenses.
That’s what’s at stake.