By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
"What do you charge for your PI services," is a question most of us, at some point or another, will be asked. The person asking, which can be anyone ranging from friend and acquaintance to Facebook group contact, is probably asking because something in their personal life or in the personal life of a family or loved one needs to be resolved..
Whether or not you are a licensed private investigator --and in my case, I am not licensed and I do not want to be-- they may also need information that does not require a licensed private investigator to obtain and the question, "how much do you charge for your private investigation services?" is actually conscious or unconscious code for, 'will you help?'
"I'm just looking around for someone to do some background digging. I have to figure out how much it's worth to me to get the info. ;-)" the person responded when I informed her the firm I work for has a $500 minimum retainer for a background investigation.
When she specified she was looking for, "more than an apartment rental, less than a security clearance," I pointed out that myriad online services are available to landlords. They can obtain something that doesn't go very in depth for around $50 online. That is a background "check" as opposed to a background investigation, however. And again, a background investigation starts with a $500 retainer fee.
"That is probably more than I can justify paying for this particular project and more background check than I need," she acknowledged.
"Alright," I said reiterating that a background investigation is different than a background check and it something you can't just get from a basic online service for a $50 fee.
"Okay, that all sounds good. I suspect it's going to turn out to be more than I'm willing to spend, but I'd be happy to chat with someone about it, and my budget's not nothing," she said. So I wished her well and referred her to the Denver Public Library which offers access to online phone directory and newspaper listings.
"We often to asked to help find someone (their current phone number, current address, reverse lookup, etc.) or we help someone use something like an inmate locator. But as far as actually researching the background and history of a person, that's a bit different and we aren't really able to do that very well" said one of Denver's Central Library reference librarians when I asked. "Our genealogy department, obviously, helped people locate their family and ancestors, but that's also different."
Hiring a private investigator to do a background investigation is the route you take when you've exhausted options like the public library and $50 background checks.
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blog
The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) hasn't provided additional documentation regarding the case that drove them to issue Grand Junction Private Investigator, Jessica Erin Lane a letter of admonishment. Hopefully additional information will be available soon.
See also: Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies issues Admonishment to Grand Junction private investigator after investigator refuses to provide investigation report
Meanwhile, private investigators from all over the country, responded with examples of when, in their practice, they might deny an investigative report to a client who requested it. Many states including the State of Colorado, require private investigators submit reports in order to keep their licenses. A cursory review of the Colorado license requirements confirms this is a requirements that needs to be specified in the contract. Screenshots obtained from the Colorado Secretary of State's Office are are circles in red.
To start with the basics, Virginia based private investigator, Kimberly Williamson defines report as "a blurb that says 'this is what we did, this is how long it took and here are the next steps.'" She says she the investigation report provides clients with, "some kind of narrative or summary with expense reports." Most cases that are paid for, invoiced and completed follow this formula.
Williamson once worked "with a guy who offered a significant amount of money for a home address of a vehicle that made him mad during traffic. He said he wanted to send a guy adult toys or some nonsense," and that was a situation that needed to be handled differently.
Although "work product is the juicy details, photos, or the generated background/address info," it is Virginia state law not to "hand work product to someone whom we discover or suspect of being under a protective order." The same pertains to a client who is under a retraining order or who may be self-injurious. In such circumstances, Williamson explains, the private investigator may still supply the information to the attorney or to the therapist of the client. If the private investigator needs to terminate the contract, the PI will "send a copy of the signed contract with the violation highlighted and a letter advising them that x, y, and z were performed and what led to termination."
“My client always gets a report, as long as the invoice is paid,” explains Oklahoma City based investigator, Brian Bates when asked about circumstances that would cause a gumshoe to preclude a client from seeing or receiving a final report. "I have very few clients on terms and most provide a retainer. That said, getting a report does not mean the client gets all my work product," he explains.
For Bates, recording everything is key. "I audio record all my interactions for my benefit. I do not turn those over unless it becomes necessary or relevant to do so. I also keep my own personal notes and I do not turn those over - I use my notes however as a basis for the report I give the client."
Thanks to recording technologies evolving from the early dictagraph days (pictured above) it is easier than ever before to inconspicuously record a conversation. Bates insists that the "audio recording feature of my Apple Watch is a life saver," saying "no one questions it the way they question a phone or recording pen."
"I also track myself while on a case (car tracker and smart phone tracker) and shoot timestamped photos randomly. Unless required as part of a surveillance job, I do not turn those over," he explains.
Why then such painstaking efforts to document information that wont even be included in the report? "The main reason I record all interactions is for liability reasons," Bates explains, is that "people lie - a lot. Recordings have saved me from arrest more than once."
See also: the Denver Private Investigator Blog talks process server safety with Tom Mills
While there is no known correlation between the Admonishment that the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies issued to the Grand Junction investigator ---case currently remain unknown as no additional supporting documentation has been made available-- and the examples in this article, the report is still a vital part of the job for Bates who says, "my client gets a report, as long as the invoice is paid."
Recordings protect private eyes anytime their side of the story is contested and Bates is emphatic that "people lie - a lot. "Recordings have saved me from arrest more than once. Had the FBI stop me once as I was leaving a town in Oklahoma. All because the person I interviewed, that was involved in a federal case, realized he shouldn’t have talked to me. He called the FBI agent he had been working with and lied and told him I identified myself as a federal agent. I was detained and only released after I was able to play back audio of our meeting - where I clearly gave the man a card and told him I was a private investigator.”
See also: felony menacing charge
Bates’ example is not dissimilar in what happened to Colorado process server, Tom Mills when he served papers to an off-duty Denver Sheriff’s Deputy in Adams County, Colorado and it was ultimately the video recording he made of of an off-duty Sheriff’s Deputy pointing a gun at him that he used to prove his innocence.
Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies issues Admonishment to Grand Junction private investigator after investigator refuses to provide investigation report
By Susanna Speier,
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
Jessica Erin Lane of Grand Junction, Colorado, located in Mesa County received a letter of admonition issued by Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) program director, Mark Browne on January 7, 2019 stating “the director determined that the facts disclosed do not warrant the commencement of formal disciplinary proceedings against your private investigator license. However, the Director has ordered this Letter of Admonition be issued to your pursuant to section 12-58.5 (1), C.R.S.”
See also: Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies issues admonishment to Texas based Colorado private investigator licensee
If you'd like to brush up and/or refresh on the latest tweaks to licensing regulations, you'll find the full legalese rundown on the Justia website and Mark Brown's letter specifying the Lane's licensing violations are pasted below.
According to the two bullet points and their parenthetical (but considerably more layman-friendly) summaries, the admonishment is for “failing to complete the contracted investigation and failing to provide report of investigation.”
See also: report writing for Private Investigators
It is unclear from the document obtained why Lane did not complete the investigation and/or produce the report. As Lane never issued a response, the admonishment must remain a stand-alone document of what happened. The segment of the letter, pictured below, also states the admonishment will be available in the public records which is how the Denver Private Investigator Blog obtained it.
According to her Linkedin profile, Lane has worked for the Defense Investigators Group (DIG) The Robison Group and Marden Investigation Company and has 18 years of experience in investigations and legal fields. "I have built, directed, supervised and managed a successful investigation agency for 10 years," she states in her Linkedin summary.
Reports are a vital part of an investigation. Especially if it is a legal investigation requiring consistency and clarity to ensure the attorneys, judges and juries are able to connect dots of seemingly disparate trails of evidence and testimonies.
To reiterate, it is unclear from this document why Lane did not complete the investigation by providing her client with a report at the end of the assignment. This particular article, however does not need to end as Lane is welcome to contact and share her side of the story with the Denver Private Investigator Blog so we better understand what the dynamics between her and the client were that lead to the admonishment being issued. We can, of course, be reached through the website and through all of our social media channels which now include Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blog
Ava DuVernay's Netflix series, When They See Us shines light on the vulnerability of young people in police interrogation rooms by walking us through the stories of the five young men who were wrongfully convicted after --hours into an interrogation during which they had been denied sleep and food--- they falsely confessed to a crime they did not commit.
According to Anne Marie Moyes, Director of the Korey Wise Innocence Project in Boulder, "28% of the DNA exonerations nationwide involved false confessions."
Of that group of wrongful convictions involving false confessions:
See also: The Colorado Connection to When They See Us
Why would anyone make a false confession, though? According to Saul Kassin, distinguished professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, innocent people who are vulnerable can internalize false confessions.
When you hear the wrongfully convicted talk about why they waived their rights saying they figured they would eventually be protected by the fact that they are, indeed, innocent. Innocent people sometimes confess under hours of interrogation, however because they are lead to believe additional evidence is on it's way and lead to believe they need to cooperate because additional information will be disclosed. He says people making false confessions saying things like, "I guess I did it" and then start to provide details handed to them during the interrogation.
Although there are many techniques for interrogation Kassin says the goal of American style interrogation is an accusation of guilt and a refusal to accept denials. Kassin also points out that false confession case interrogations tend to last longer because the interrogators make it more stressful to deny than to confess. Subjects feel overwhelmed and are looking for an expedient way out.
To read the transcript of the discussion or listen to the audio of the interview during which he discusses Korey Wise's false confession, visit the post on their Speaking of Psychology website. He believes raising awareness is an important part of helping to reform a broken system.
There is no shortage of compelling private investigator movies and books available, however, When They See Us, may have more timely, relevant and important insights to offer people who regularly conduct police interviews and work on legal investigation cases. It is, perhaps a movie that should be seen by all Americans. Those in as well as outside of the private investigator and security industry.
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blog
The Korey Wise Innocence Project at University of Colorado, Boulder's Colorado Law School has gotten a lot of calls and emails since the Netflix release of Ava DuVernay drama web television miniseries, "When They See Us," according to Anne-Marie Mo'syes Director of the Korey Wise Innocence Project. The series is about the five young men from Harlem who were wrongfully convicted, imprisoned and eventually exonerated of a crime committed against a jogger in New York's Central Park in 1989.
“Not only has there been a strong response to (When They See Us) but a strong response to his story. That’s my sense based on all the different emails and Facebook posts. It says something at the end about his involvement with our project and we’ve had this explosion of interest and comments and messages," Moyes said in a phone interview.
Korey Wise's attorney lives in Colorado and represented him in the civil suit (against The City of New York) and she played a big role in facilitating his gift to CU Boulder's Innocence Program that represents others who claim they were wrongfully convicted. The final episode of DuVernay's series focuses primarily on Korey Wise's story. The Denver Post also reported the uptick in donations since DuVernay's series was released on Netflix.
Wise donated $190,000 to the Innocence Project in 2015 after Wise and the other four after winning a 41 million dollar settlement against the City of New York.
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