Tag Archives: state records

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.


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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.


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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Just two weeks to the class at the Learning Exchange

Just two (2) until our next class on How to Find Anything on Anyone at the Learning Exchange.


See you there.  (If you can find the classroom.)

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Access to Public Records is becoming more restricted.

Just about the only thing you can count on when searching for information through access to public records is that there is  little if any consistency.  Shrinking state and municipal budgets have an obvious impact on your access to public records.

Entities that got into setting up sophisticated on-line access to information early will no doubt be able to continue to do.  However, there is not guarantee that will be the case.  While Sacramento County continues to maintain some of the best on-line services that I have worked with, the San Joaquin County Court  (Stockton, CA) shut down its on-line index in the last year or so.  Initially the site posted a notice that it was complying with State rules regarding limiting access to birth, death and marriage records.  That excuse made no sense because all the other California Counties did not seem to share that interpretation.  It seemed to be a matter of cost and only one of cost.  Now a search of San Joaquin County Court records requires a trip to the courthouse in Stockton.  In the past, such a trip would be avoided.  Now you have to find time during the work week to conduct an in person search just to see if there any files that may be of interest.

Here in Sacramento County, access to records has been reduced by cuts to the number of staff working in the records departments of the County Courts.  The most noticeable effects appear  in the Family Law Records Department.  A recent effort to gain access to a file took six (6) hours.  The first three were spent waiting in line to order a file that was stored in archives.  Seven (7) days later when the file was available,  another three (3) hours were spent waiting in line to get the file, review its six or so pages of material and return it.  The reason for the delay is simply explained by the presence of fewer people working behind the counter.

One other example of how  access to information is becoming limited due to budget constraints appears in Los Angeles  County, where you have to set up a credit card account to gain access to the on-line case index. If you don’t have a credit card, you need to drive to one the several court houses in LA County and do the your search the old-fashioned way, by hand.

In each of these cases reduced access is not the result of re-characterizing the status of a document, it is simply the result of tougher economic times.

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8 Facts to Try to Gather Before You Start a Search for Someone

Before starting a search for someone or hiring someone to conduct the search, you should try to collect as much information about the subject of your search as you can.  Below is list of 8 facts that really help find the subject of your search.  You don’t need all 8, but the more you have at the start of your search, the greater the likelihood of success.

1.  Correct Spelling of the subject’s Name

You won’t believe how much this helps and how often people don’t have it.

2.  A Middle Name or Middle Initial

This can really help narrow your search.

3.  Date of Birth (DOB)

This again can go a long way toward narrowing your search to the person you are looking for.  Just knowing the year of birth is helpful in because many sites will include an age range for possible matches.  The Sacramento County Case Index allows you to search criminal records using the subject’s name and DOB.  This really narrows things for the person doing the search.  Yolo County requires a DOB to run a criminal case file search.

4.  Social Security Number

Although this can be tough to come by, it really helps with the expensive national data base searches.  Having a SSN is kind of like finding fingerprints on the murder weapon.

5.  Last Know Address

Having the last know address or any address known to have been good is a huge aid in finding someone.  Even if it is just a city or town, as long as you know it was good once upon a time it can be of help.

6.  The Subject’s Profession

When running a search it can be of great help to include the subject’s profession or the name of the company they were known to work for.

7.  Hobbies or Other Interests

Much like a subject’s profession, adding a known hobby or interest to your search queries can lead to the right person.

8.  Other Related Parties

The name of the subject’s spouse, parents or children can help you sift through court files, residence records and in come cases you will find who you are looking for by checking the social media sites maintained by people associated with your subject.

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Expectation Management – Why search results can’t be guaranteed. (Part 2)

In Part One of this series we defined success in finding a particular subject as locating and contacting the subject.  The most common reason for that a search is unsuccessful relates to the failure to find the subject.  However, if you find your subject the job is only half done.  You still need to contact your subject.  If you are serving a complaint of subpoena to need to make contact in order to have successful service.  If you want to interview the person, you need to contact and hope they will talk with.  Those are situations in which you “need” find and contact your subject.  In those cases, how badly you need that person will determine how much time and money you are willing to expend to get the job done.

In one case, I had to contact the subject’s  friends in the United States and then contact him in the minefields of Kenya.  In that case, we were fortunate that he was a very cooperative witness.

If your search is of the “want” variety your decision may be quite different.  Finding old friends, associates, classmates, comrades in arms or lovers generally falls into the “want” category.  Though you may find them and try to contact them, they may not be responsive to your overtures.   The reasons for not responding to your attempts to re-establish contact are pretty reasonable and should be understandable.

They may wish to leave the past in the past.  They have moved on and like where they are.  Maybe they moved on and they are embarrassed about where they are.  Either way, they want to leave the past right where it is.

What you think of as the good old days, really weren’t so good for them and they don’t want re-visit memories that aren’t too pleasant to recall.

Perhaps they thought you were a butt-head when they knew you and they are trying to live as butt-head free as possible.  If you broke up with them, they may still think you’re a jerk.

Maybe they are just lazy and they keep forgetting to get back to you.

Whatever the reason is, you need to respect it.  If they are important enough for you to want to reach out to them, then they are important enough to have their privacy respected.

If you are certain that you located the person you are looking for and they don’t get in touch with you, the search wasn’t a total loss.  At least you know they are still out there kicking and you know where they kicking.

There is probably a thin line between legitimately trying to reconnect with someone and becoming a stalker.  No one should want to knowingly or accidentally cross that line.  Knowing where the line is becomes the challenge.  I suspect the placement of that line varies from person to person.  I suggest that my students follow the Three Strike Rule.

In California we have the Three Strike Rule that involves sentencing criminals who have been convicted of a three or more felonies.  When it comes to contacting people you “want” to get in touch with I suggest applying a Three Strike Rule as well.

If you contact a person three times (regardless of what means you use) and you don’t hear back from them, let it go.  Don’t become upset or insulted.  Respect the fact that they must have a good reason and let it go.  You wouldn’t want to be hounded by someone you really don’t want to get back in touch with, so treat the subject of your search with the same respect you would hope that others would show you.

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Hello world!

Day one of my blog and this is a day that may or may not go unnoticed in the annals of blogging.  Only time will tell.

I am a Private Investigator licensed by the State of California (CA PI Lic. #20100)  I opened my own shop in 1999 and since that time I have worked on cases in the areas of civil, criminal, family and probate law.  I’ve worked on cases involving huge forest fires and slip and falls and I have found people and information that other didn’t or couldn’t find on their own.

In 2005 I began teaching a class called “Find Anything On Anyone” at the Learning Exchange (LEX) in Sacramento.


The LEX picked the name and it is a little too broad, but the purpose is to teach people where accessible information exists .  No hacking, no sneaking, just learning where useful information is and how to use it.  In a 2 and 1/2 hour class we cover, court records (State and Federal), county recorder records, assessor’s records, marriage records, death records, birth records and a variety of State records, particularly  corporate records maintained by the office of the Secretary of State.  We even cover the basics of the Freedom of Information Act.

Over the years the class has been attended by paralegals, other investigators and a bankruptcy trustee as well as people looking for long-lost relatives, long-lost lovers (or people they wished had been lovers) and people who owed them money.

This blog is intended to be an extension of the class and help you search more effectively or decide to have a professional do it for you.

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