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.
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