Tag Archives: private investigations

The Shrinking Pool of Public Information

The Shrinking Pool of Public Information.
Today I went down the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Warrants Office to learn if there were any outstanding warrants for particular individual. I was politely told by the clerk that I could only have the information if I was the person in question or accompanied by the person in question.
Meanwhile in Tuolomne County, not only is that kind of information readily accessible by the public, it is available on line with mugshots.
What is it that the Sacramento County Sheriff hopes to accomplish by severely limiting this kind of information?


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Money to Municipalities will do a lot to drive the legalization of marijuana.

The town of Coalinga, CA decided to bet it’s future on building a prison.  The town lost the bet and the prison sat unused.  Nothing was gained but debt to the community.  The city council decided to the sell the prison for over $4,000,000.00 to a company in Southern California that grows and produces medical marijuana.  Now a place that would have housed offenders of the various marijuana related criminal statutes will in fact be a home to the production of the medical marijuana products.  According to the article at the link below at least 100 jobs have already been created.  It appears that the ability of municipalities and states to generate cash from marijuana will do more to drive the move to legalize it than anything else.

Coalinga, CA sells it’s prison to a Medical Marijuana company.

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Fowler Trial Date Moved Again.

For reasons unknown to me because I was not in attendance at the hearing last week, the Court moved to push back the start of the Fowler trial by two weeks. No doubt some sort of conflict existed that caused the court to call the prosecution and defense into the Courthouse to change the date. Right now it looks like the date for the start of trial is February 23, 2015. I will post any corrections if they prove necessary.

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Milestone Reached

A milestone was reached today when this blog received its 5,000th view. This certainly didn’t happen in a meteoric sort of way. In fact it was more a glacial move. Nevertheless, it is nice to say that it’s reached the 5,000 mark.

Thank you to everyone who has checked in to take a look.


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Leila Fowler Evidentiary Hearing

After a hearing that stretched over two days, the court ruled that statements made by Isaiah Fowler during the course of at least five (5) interviews with Calaveras County Sheriffs and the FBI were not made in a custodial setting.  Various members of the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department took the stand to inform the court that at not one time during these interviews did they consider Isaiah a suspect in the case despite the fact that he was the only other identifiable person in the house at the time of Leila’s murder.  One investigator stated that it was normal to have witness to a murder undress for photographs of his body to look for signs of struggle or damage caused to their person.  When asked when the last time the investigator had done that with a witness, he admitted it was about 25 years earlier.

Sheriff’s Deputies repeated that they consistently told the then 12 year old Isaiah that he was free to leave at any time.  At the same Isaiah’s father was also pressing him for answers and was in the unique position of being the guardian of both the victim and the subject of the questioning which represents a very difficult conflict of interest for a grieving parent.

Trial remains scheduled to commence on August 12, 2014.

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US Supreme Court Rules that a Warrant is Necessary to Search Your Cell Phone

The US Supreme Court, in a 9-0 ruling, stated that a search warrant is necessary to search the contents of a cell phone.  http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/25/justice/supreme-court-cell-phones/

The article at the above link gives a good account of the history of the case and the court’s reasoning that even if the police validly detain an individual for something like a traffic violation, they can not then expand their activity to a search of his or her cell phone for evidence of other illegal activities in the absence of a warrant setting forth the particulars that are the basis for the need to search the phone.

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June 25, 2014 · 12:16 PM

Is the wine in the bottle what the label says it is?

Unbeknownst to this consumer of Two Buck Chuck (now Two and Half Bucks Chuck) there are people who create fraudulent rare wines, such as bottles that allegedly belonged to Thomas Jefferson.  National Public Radio ran a very interesting piece on this phenomenon and the people who work at busting the con artists trying to pull the wool over they eyes of wealthy wine investors.

I think you will find it fascinating.


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Your car has its own “Black Box”

Automotive Black Boxes

For nearly two decades Ford and GM have included what are often referred to as Black Boxes to record certain accident related data pertaining to your vehicle.  Generally this data was stored or generated by the Air Bag Module which processes data from sensors placed throughout a vehicle to determine whether or not air bags should or should not be deployed (inflated).

The systems were originally developed for and installed in race cars to help build safer vehicles.  Over time they were inserted in consumer vehicles and after some court battles the means to readily download this data for use in accident reconstruction cases became available.  

Depending on the system, impact sets off the sensors which transmit data to the Air Bag Module.  The ABM gathers information on speed, RPMs, whether or not seats are occupied, whether seat belts are engaged, whether the brake is engaged and point of impact.  This data is stored in the module and can be downloaded in a very readable form for varying periods of time.  Typically situations calling for the deployment of air bags are stored indefinitely and those that do not are retained for a certain number of ignition cycles.  (Each time you start the engine and then shut it off = one ignition cycle.)

The data can be downloaded from the car or the module can be removed depending on the circumstances.  Either way hardware is necessary to access the data.  Therefore, a technician can not pull up near your car and conduct a wireless download of data.

This information is collected by law enforcement in many accident situations, but insurance companies have been slow to download the data from their clients’ vehicles in non-fatal situations.  In fact most cars go to scrap before data is downloaded or the driver effectively erases the data after X number of ignition cycles are exceeded.  Either way important evidence is destroyed.

One of the the concerns about this data involves privacy and the issue of who owns the information.  The US Senate just passed a bill that says the car owner or lessee is owner rather than the manufacturer or lessor.  http://editorial.autos.msn.com/blogs/post–senators-propose-law-covering-car-black-box-data

You should be aware that this data exists and could be used to prove your case if you are ever involved in an accident. 

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A relatively new option at Sacramento County Family Court

One of the negative byproducts of reduced budgets is that the waiting time to order records at the Sacramento County Court’s Family Law section is that you can easily wait three (3) hours to just to order a file.  If that file in in archives then you have to return in seven to eight working days and wait another three hours to get your hands on it. 

In order to reduce the waiting you can now order a case on-line at http://www.saccourt.ca.gov/family/records.aspx.

When you get to this page you can compare the case number for the file you want to order the list of files that are currently on the shelves.  For those of you who might be looking up cases at the on-line case index, the following cases numbers are not in archives.

Case numbers beginning with the following are located at the courthouse and do not have to be pre-ordered:

  • 11AD, 12AD, 13AD
  • 08FL, 09FL, 10FL, 11FL, 12FL, 13FL
  • 12DV, 13DV
  • 12CP, 13CP
  • 10FS, 11FS, 12FS, 13FS   

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Stuff I sometimes wish I had, but I’m glad I don’t.

The Huffington Post reports in this article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/05/dea-surveillance-cover-up_n_3706207.html?ir=Politics&utm_campaign=080513&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Alert-politics&utm_content=Title that the DEA has a Special Operations Division (SOD) that collects tons of information into a database of roughly one billion items to establish and share tips and evidence among other agencies, including the NSA.  Read the article to get all the details because on summary on my part will not do it justice.

One of the things the article discusses is the creation of “parallel construction.”  According to the article,

“It’s just like laundering money – you work it backwards to make it clean,” said Finn Selander, a DEA agent from 1991 to 2008 and now a member of a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which advocates legalizing and regulating narcotics.

Some defense lawyers and former prosecutors said that using “parallel construction” may be legal to establish probable cause for an arrest. But they said employing the practice as a means of disguising how an investigation began may violate pretrial discovery rules by burying evidence that could prove useful to criminal defendants. 

Burying the source of evidence means that defendants may not be able to investigate its veracity.  If the source is an informant, a defendant cannot delve into the motivation of the informant.  I can tell you that from the standpoint of someone working on the defense side of things this can be a real problem.

There are many days when I wish I could access phone records with just a few key strokes.  However, I can get something through public records, a witness volunteering information or the issuance of a subpoena, I can’t violate someone’s rights and when you score that tidbit of information that has meaning in a case you get a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

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