While it’s always prudent to look for the most economical option when searching for a private investigator (or any service provider), the “most economical option” doesn’t necessarily mean hiring the cheapest investigator available. Although more expensive firms charge a higher hourly rate, they can often get the same — or better — results than seemingly cheaper PIs in only a fraction of the time. For example, a firm that charges $225 per hour may be able to get the information that you’re looking for in less than an hour, while the $100 per hour firm might take weeks to get the same information. [Read more…]
Growing up watching television detectives may have led you to think that all PIs live a life filled with mystery and adventure, that they drive sports cars and have access to amazing spy gadgetry and secret government records. That may be true for a very few investigators, but the majority of us have no fancy car or special superpowers. Here, in a nutshell, are five myths about the work of private investigators:
1. It’s a glamorous job. Nothing could be further from the truth unless you think that sitting in a parked car for hours – or digging through cell phone records for days on end — is glamorous. Researching, reading, and writing are the primary activities of the job. Most of what an investigator does is pretty boring; it’s a commitment to uncovering the truth of a situation that motivates the private eye.
2. Private investigators always get to the bottom of things. In the movies and TV shows, the work of the PI always results in a good outcome for the client. In reality, results can be mixed and the work we do doesn’t guarantee a happy ending. Unlike fiction, a detective rarely stumbles on a single piece of evidence, like a “smoking gun,” that solves a case. Some investigations can lead to even more questions!
3. Private eyes have more freedom than police detectives. Because they are independent of government, private investigators have fewer freedoms than the police. They can’t seek warrants for searches or wiretaps and must comply with any state and federal laws when snooping around private property. Like the police, PIs also can’t offer bribes or hack into a person’s computer to obtain information. [Read more…]
No matter how amicable, a divorce inevitably produces conflicts, none greater than the division of assets between the parting couple.
When assets are divided during a divorce, the first step is normally to create a comprehensive picture of all the assets owned by each spouse. Property and other assets acquired during the marriage may be categorized as “marital assets,” while property acquired prior to the marriage (or through a gift or inheritance) may be categorized thought of as “separate.” “Comingled” assets are those where marital and separate assets are combined, such as a joint bank account or retirement investment fund. Even in cases where you may not have an ownership right in your any separate assets held by your spouse, depending on your state’s laws, the court may consider the value of both parties’ separate property when deciding how to distribute marital property and debts.
It is not unusual for a spouse to hide assets during a divorce; hidden assets and unreported income are very often alleged in divorce proceedings, generally by the spouse who has not had a hand in managing the finances. Finding assets or proving unreported income can be challenging, which is why divorce attorneys rely on private investigators who are familiar with the ways individuals move assets into the hands of third parties or use false documents to obscure ownership.
There are as many ways to conceal assets as there are personalities of the people involved. In their attempts to hide assets, spouses may look to relatives or friends who may or may not be aware of their complicity. Sometimes personal possessions or insurance and investment certificates are put into safety deposit boxes in the name of a family member.
Money that may have been spent by a cheating spouse on gifts, travel or rent for a boyfriend or girlfriend can be disguised as valid business expenses. Spouses who own businesses may conceal assets by skimming cash from the business, paying nonexistent employees or paying fees to relatives that can be collected back after the divorce. Sometimes a spouse may simply try to artificially lower the value of his or her business prior to a divorce by delaying the signing of contracts.
A private investigator charged with locating hidden assets in a divorce case will first collect timely and accurate personal identification information about the spouse in question: full legal name and variations as well as known aliases, current and recent address information. Because assets may have been transferred to family members, the investigator will also collect the names and addresses of close relatives, their social security numbers and dates of birth.
While cases vary, at the outset of the investigation there is generally an attempt to get a sense of the spouse’s lifestyle: how do they spend their money and their time? Who do they spend their time with? Do their paychecks go into the marital account or are they deposited separately, into the spouse’s bank account? Is cash routinely used to pay for purchases? Are there credit cards? If so, where do the statements get mailed?
From there, a private investigator will do whatever digging is required and send reports back to your divorce attorney. Knowing what’s out there is the only way to know what is rightfully yours in any settlement. Contact us today if you need help.
Your attorney may enlist the help of a private investigator to assist with your criminal defense. And for good reason. No matter how skilled and experienced your lawyer is, she can’t possibly spend time digging up facts as thoroughly as you would like – and overlooking an important fact can have dire consequences for the outcome of your criminal trial. Your attorney can’t be out in the field canvasing and interviewing witnesses or personally vetting experts. That’s why she pays a professional private investigator, like Baldwin Legal Investigations.
The criminal defense attorneys we work with (mostly here in Alabama, but also around the Pensacola, Florida area) leverage our investigators’ collective experience and can draw on our personal network of industry and subject matter experts. After all, we’re in the information business so we know how to track down what’s needed pre-trial. For example, your criminal defense lawyer may not have any professional connections to an insurance fraud examiner – but a PI who has worked dozens of insurance fraud cases would naturally have these resources.
Lawyers and law firms utilize private investigation services for a variety of reasons:
- reconstructing accidents and locating/interviewing witnesses
- uncovering hidden assets
- gathering information that can be used to assist in a criminal defense case
- gathering evidence for divorce proceedings
- investigating personal injury claims or workers compensation fraud
Because private investigators are trained in conducting surveillance and have access to restricted proprietary databases that contain the most complete and up-to-date intelligence, solo law practitioners and small firms save time and money outsourcing most investigative matters to independent legal investigators like BLI.
What should attorneys look for when selecting a private investigator? After all, the quality of the information and admissibility of evidence presented can make or break a case, so it’s very important to hire only a qualified and experienced investigator.
Tip #1: Make sure he or she is licensed.
Except for a few States, licensing for private investigators is mandatory. In Alabama, the regulatory agency that can verify that your PI has the proper certifications and licenses is the Alabama Private Investigation Board.
Tip #2. Make sure he or she is insured.
Most states require PIs to carry insurance and maybe even a surety bond. As an attorney (or law firm) you should also require that your PI’s insurance policy covers Errors and Omissions. Ask to see proof; check the expiry date and amount of coverage.