Tag Archives: PI

Your copier and scanner holds all your secrets!

Copiers are full of secrets.

Did you know that modern copiers have a hard drive that digitally retains every (or nearly every) document copied on that machine and the vast majority of those machines are without any mechanism to erase or encrypt the data.  As a result when you sell or trade in a copier you are probably sending all kinds of private information that identity thieves can then get their hands on.

In addition, lawyers conducting discovery should be aware that an individual’s copier or a company’s copier may be a source of information relevant to an on going law suit.

One law firm I spoke with purchased what was represented as brand new copier and its hard drive was full of documents from and accounting firm.

For a brief primer check out this video from CBS News that aired in 2010.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6412572n

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Thank the volunteers.

To any of you who may have yet to cast your ballot today,  I hope you will take a moment while on your way out to thank the volunteers who help to make the process possible.

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Something to remember when viewing court files.

Here is something to remember if you are going to the courthouse to review files.

IT IS A FELONY TO REMOVE ANY DOCUMENTS FROM A FILE.

When you take out a case file for review in Sacramento County the clerks will generally tell that you cannot remove anything from the file.  There will also be signs posted in viewing areas.  Most often I see people taking apart a file at the copying machines while the sign looms directly in front of them.  Don’t do it!

The court doesn’t want you to mess up the files and those of us who regularly go through files don’t want you to either.  The reason is that was don’t want things to end up missing or to be put back in the wrong order.  Generally, documents are entered into the files in chronological order.  In some cases, certain types of documents are placed on one side in particular (Law & Motion documents for example.   If the documents are out-of-order when you put them back in, it can really mess up an accurate review of the contents and make life more difficult for anyone who gets the file next.

In addition, files may have sealed documents.  You cannot open the sealed envelopes, even if you are a party to the case.  (I have held them up to the light in the hope that I might glimpse something really useful, but that has yet to work.)

If you are having trouble figuring out how to make copies, ask a clerk or a bike messenger.  Anyone standing behind you at the copiers who searches through files as part of their job will be glad to instruct you.  The sooner you get your business sorted out, the sooner we can take care of what we are there to do.

In the event that a document is loose and falls out of a file, just let the clerk know when you return it.  It happens and they appreciate the opportunity to fix it up.

From all of us who do this sort of thing for a living, thank you.

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Next Class at the Learning Exchange

Get your notebooks ready. Our next class at the Learning Exchange will be on Wednesday, January 21, 2013.

Hope to you see there!

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Why my Learning Exchange Class has a subtitle.

As I wrote in my initial post, I teach a class at the Learning Exchange (LEX) entitled, “Find Anything on Anyone.”  Yeah, the title was created by the LEX, so its a little too broad.  As a result, I added the subtitle “Without Getting Sued or Going to Jail.” Lest anyone should think that I put that in for the sake of humor alone, I awoke today to learn of two cases that highlight the point.

I heard about the first case as I awoke to Morning Edition on National Public Radio.  If you recall from my post about what I do as an investigator, I said that although its great to dig up the information or evidence that your client would most love to get, that doesn’t always happen.  My job isn’t to manufacture evidence, just collect it.  Apparently and attorney and his investigators in Florida forget that important truth.  (http://www.npr.org/2012/08/17/158826992/when-the-lawyer-becomes-the-object-of-prosecution)

The NPR piece doesn’t say if the mother-daughter PI team was convicted, but the attorney in the case faces a prison sentence of up to ten years.  Instead of clearing the mines, they planted some and then stepped right on the very ones they planted.

The other case is closer to home.  A PI here in Northern California was arrested for fraudulently obtaining police reports.  Normally, policy reports do not fall into the realm of public records but according to Government Code Section 6254 (f), they are available in a redacted form to:

“victims of an incident, or authorized representative thereof, an insurance carrier against which a claim has been or might be made, and any person suffering bodily injury or property damage or loss, as the result of the incident caused by arson, burglary, fire, explosion, larceny, carjacking, vehicle theft, or a crime as defined by subdivision (b) of Section 13951…”

There are a number of limitations to this rule and the full text can be found at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=gov&group=06001-07000&file=6250-6270.

The PI in this case was hired by the former wife in a family law dispute.  He may or may not have been working under the direction of the former wife’s attorney.  This is important because much of the evidence in the case may be protected by the work product privilege and not be discoverable.  This is why I always want to work at the direction of attorney.

The PI, who is also a former parole agent/officer, hung his old credentials around is neck and showed up at police departments seeking the files related to a woman living with the ex-husband in the case.  He allegedly represented himself as a currently active Parole Agent (and not for the purpose of entertaining at a bachelorette party) and thereby gained access to files in up to four counties.   In none of the cases did his action fall within the limitations of Government Code 6254 (f) and therefore is has been arrested and is being represented by Mark Reichel of the Law Office of Reichel & Plesser. (You can learn more about this firm at http://www.reichelplesser.com/)

Regardless of whether or not the PI in question misrepresented himself and in so doing opened himself, his client and her attorney to criminal prosecution and civil litigation, the amazing part is that he didn’t even have to go through the effort of getting police files.  By simply finding out where the subject of his investigation lived over the last 10 – 15 years he could have checked the criminal court files in each county.  Those files are within the realm of public records (except portions that are sealed by the court).  Had he done that, he would be off the hook and so would his client and her attorney.  (For more on this case you can check the Sacramento Bee at http://blogs.sacbee.com/crime/archives/2012/08/private-investigator-accused-of-posing-as-parole-agent.html#storylink=misearch.)

If he took my class, he would have learned that in the first hour and no one would be going to jail or getting sued.

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What do Private Investigators do?

First of all forget about the stuff you see in movies and on TV.  Much of it is illegal and the issue of who pays for the damages is never dealt with.

PI’s do a lot of things depending are the area of expertise.  Given that I don’t run down too many “cheaters” or do Worker’s Compensation work, my job is to eliminate surprises.   There is an old saying for those in the legal world who deal in litigation, “Never ask a question you don’t already know the  answer to.” Attorneys don’t like surprises.  Facing litigation is like looking across a huge open field that you have to cross even though you know that explosive mines are buried all over the place.  One wrong question and BOOM, your case lies in pieces.

My job is to clear the mine field.  My job is not necessarily to get the answers or the information the client wants to hear.  Its great if I do find favorable tidbits of information, but sometimes only the unfavorable ones are out there.  One way or the other I find out what is lurking out there in the field and let my client know so that he or she can deal with it.  Good news or bad news, it doesn’t really matter.  An attorney can deal with it as long as it doesn’t come as a surprise.

They don’t want to step on mines planted in the field of litigation.

I clear the mines.

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