Attorneys and private investigators have been working together to build cases for decades. The pressure of bringing a court case to fruition falls to the attorney, but there are many instances where a private investigator can strengthen a case. From social media searches to financial investigations, here are six ways that private investigators can help attorneys.
1. Financial Investigations
Private investigators have access to advanced databases and are versed in research methods for public records at all levels. In fact, some investigators specialize only in researching financial cases. Their assistance in recovering stolen assets and investigating potential business partners can be crucial, as they can find evidence that lawyers may not have the time or ability to track down.
Investigators can also help assess financial evidence already collected. Some investigators in Trustify’s network have backgrounds in forensic accounting, meaning they can provide key evidence for embezzlement cases.
2. Fraud Detection
Many investigators have experience in fraud detection as well, and they are often times hired by investors, business partners, non-profit organizations and companies for this purpose.
Insurance fraud is another area where private investigators can assist attorneys. “There was recent legislation repealed in Nevada regarding car accident cases. Prior to the repeal, insurance companies had to tell us what an at-fault driver’s insurance coverage was, but now they don’t. It’s hard to help a client gauge their medical treatment if you don’t know what kind of policy they’re working with. Private investigators have software that will tell us driving history, insurance claims, and whether a person had insurance coverage on a certain date,” said Rebekah L. Rini, Esq, attorney at Lagomarsino Law.
Investigators can conduct deep dive investigations, revealing any tax evasion, fraud, identity theft, and more. Additionally, some private investigators have law enforcement backgrounds. The majority of private investigators in Trustify’s network come from previous criminal justice roles, having worked for the FBI, DOJ and even the military. Their familiarity working with secure, sensitive information helps them find important evidence.
In addition to background checks, private investigators can develop profiles of persons or companies of interest. They can develop psychographics (a profile of a person’s habits, hobbies, spending habits and values) from what they've learned from research and surveillance. These profiles are useful because skilled private investigators know what is admissible and relevant to a case.
4. Opposition Research & Competitive Intelligence
Knowing your competition, whether it is in a court case, in business or in politics, can help you develop a winning strategy know what to prepare for. The Trump Dossier from Fusion GPS during the 2016 Presidential Campaign and most recently in Maryland, where a 1400+ page opposition report on current Governor Larry Hogan have revealed personal information that has been later used in campaigns.
A private investigator can provide more intel that what is public knowledge or found on a Google search. Financial relationships, business activities, personal background, and previous legal dealings can help you outmaneuver your opponent.
5. Computer Forensics & Data Management
Just like some private investigators specialize in financial investigations, others are skilled in computer forensics, and are able to perform in-depth research of an electronic device's files.
" It would be beneficial to use a private investigator who has an acute knowledge of technology and computers or investigative skills to help move a case along,” stated Attorney Mark Guralnick.
Properly qualified investigators can track activities on a device and preserve the evidence so that it is clean, compliant, and will hold up in court. Perhaps most importantly, a good investigator understands that this data needs to be kept private, confidential and housed in a sterile, work-only digital environment, and that any device used to gather digital evidence by the private investigator can be subpoenaed.
Finally, good investigators understand that whatever data is recovered needs to be digestible and brief, and they are able to provide condensed reports when necessary.
Investigators are highly analytical, creative, and know how to obtain information, which is why attorneys have utilized investigators to help take depositions for pre-trial discovery. From searching archaic public records to locating potential witnesses and even questioning them prior to trial, private investigators have long been a great asset to law firms.
For Jordan Ostroff, Esq, Attorney and Partner at Jordan Law and former prosecutor, he uses private investigators on a number of cases. Their firm focuses on criminal law, family law, and academic hearings. “In the state of Florida we are allowed to do depositions in felony cases. There are times where we had them search for archaic public records.”
In one example Ostroff discussed hiring a private investigator to go to an unsavory part of town to try and locate a specific person. The problem was that the witness in the case only had the person of interest’s street name. “Shockingly, they find them more often than not,” said Ostroff. "At this point surveillance is not needed as much since the crime has already happened."
The Hidden Benefit of the Private Investigator/Attorney Working Relationship
Relying on private investigators to assist attorneys with a lot of the leg work on building cases saves a lot of time. This way attorneys can focus on working with clients, writing statements, and preparing for their day in court. Handing off research and investigation to someone whose main focus is research and investigation will free up a lawyer’s time and leave that work to "the experts."
Being able to rely on Trustify is time-saving, cost-effective solution for attorneys. “We’ve been able to handle all kinds of cases and provide attorneys with the help that they needed. The flexibility and experience of our investigators allows us to take on just about any case,” said Cole Little, Customer Success Manager with Trustify. “We’ve handled rush cases – where an attorney has contacted us in a bind – and we’ve worked on longer investigations, helping to gradually build and solidify cases.”
This reliability enables attorneys to not only save time, but return those hours that they would’ve spent doing this leg work back into billable time serving their other clients. That “returned time” can be spent on additional cases and doing the work that lawyers have the expertise in – the investigators will exercise their expertise in things like surveillance, researching records or tracking down hard-to-reach witnesses.
Instead of spending time trying to track down a private investigator that you aren’t familiar with and hope they can provide the information you need for your case, you can connect with one of the investigators who has performed the same type of work before and understands your needs.
About Danny Boice:
Danny Boice is the co-founder and CEO of Trustify, the first technology platform linking people to experienced investigators on-demand. Proud father of 5 (plus a dog!) he started Trustify with his wife Jen in 2015 after personally dealing with the difficulties of finding a good investigator in a hurry. Danny’s journey as an entrepreneur and journalist includes founding Speek, a conference call service, as well as serving as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and being featured in the Washington Post, Fast Company, and The Wall Street Journal (to name a few). Danny and Jen believe in the positive power of private investigators and are actively engaged in partnerships with a variety of nonprofits including Becky’s Fund, an organization devoted to helping the victims of domestic violence.
Catch up with Danny Boice's latest writings on Medium.