Category: Private Investigation

Common police interrogation method deemed ineffective


Claustrophobic rooms and the presumption of guilt have been accepted practice for decades—and a staple of shows like ‘Law and Order.’ But actual cops are changing their ways.

This article was published in partnership with the Marshall Project

You may have never heard of the Reid technique, but chances are you know how it works. For more than half a century, it has been the go-to police interrogation method for squeezing confessions out of suspects. Its tropes are familiar from any cop show: the claustrophobic room, the repeated accusations of guilt, the presentation of evidence—real or invented—and the slow build-up of pressure that makes admitting a crime seem like the easiest way out.

That’s why it jolted the investigative world this week when one of the nation’s largest police consulting firms—one that has trained hundreds of thousands of cops from Chicago to New York and federal agents at almost every major agency—said it is tossing out the Reid technique because of the risk of false confessions.

Read more here.

Faking your own death

If the time has come to fake your own death, don’t make the rookie mistake of thinking an accidental drowning is a good way to hide the fact that there is no “body.”

Listen to the complete podcast at

People have faked death to escape criminal convictions, debts, and their spouses. In 2007, a man named Amir Vehabovic faked his death just to see who showed up at the funeral (answer: only his mom). It’s an appealing soap-opera fantasy, but actually disappearing requires an incredible amount of planning. How do you obtain a death certificate, a believable new identity, or enough money to start a new life? Today — the answers to those questions, stories of fake death gone wrong, and a man who spends his life bringing back the dead.


The balancing act of surveillance


Covert video surveillance is intelligence gathering in its rawest form. Many think all surveillance cases are the same: You just park down the street and chase your subject until the case is done.

When you have little or no experience in the art of surveillance, it might seem that way. In workers’ compensation, child custody or infidelity cases, the surveillance operative’s goal is essentially the same: to gather video evidence of any and all activity.

But zoom in on the details, and no two cases are alike. That’s why a surveillance operative needs to put each case into context from the start, as they balance their efforts with time constraints, case location challenges and the counter-surveillance forces arrayed against them.

Colorado private investigator licensing goes into effect

Today marks the first day the current private investigator licensing program goes into effect. Read about the license law and rules or verify a license at the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies Office of Private Investigator Licensure website. 2015-06-01 09.00.50 am

Pete Fowler is licensed in Colorado and has been issued license #PI2.0000052.

Colorado Private Investigator license program to begin

This month, the state Department of Regulatory Agencies began accepting applications for a new private investigator licensing program in Colorado. The program begins June 1.

It replaces a voluntary licensing program that had become an unsustainable failure in recent years due to less participation than anticipated and skyrocketing fees. The new program is “mandatory,” although there are exemptions from being required to have a license for:

Collection agencies, employers or their employees conducting internal investigations, attorneys and their employees to include contract paralegals, accountants and their employees and any “affiliate of an accounting firm,” people conducting forensic accounting and fraud investigations based on certain types of information, public record aggregators, insurance companies and their employees, investigators employed or contracted by a public or government agency, journalists and genealogists, process servers, bail bondspeople, arson investigators, and engineers who investigate cause and failure analysis.

Licensees must fill out an application, be 21 or older, be lawfully present in the U.S., pass a “jurisprudence examination,” undergo a fingerprint based national background check, and post, maintain, or be covered by a $10,000 surety bond. In addition, to receive a level 2 license designation, a licensee must have 4,000 hours of applicable experience.

The cost to start is $330, not counting other fees for testing and a background check. Colorado’s PI license does not have reciprocity with other states.

For more information, visit the DORA website.



5 things a lawyer never wants to hear from a private investigator


For a lawyer to build a strong relationship with a private investigator, there needs to be an honest, open dialogue about things such as chances of success, billing arrangements and availability.

But there are certain things that a lawyer never wants to hear come out of a private investigator’s mouth.

“I guarantee …”

Making any absolute guarantees about anything in the investigative business is simply in poor taste and a poor business practice. As with most things, there are so many variables and factors that are out of an investigator’s control. Too many to even count.

Instead of guarantees, an investigator would be better advised to provide an honest assessment of the case along with reasonable odds of success to allow the lawyer to make a better determination of where he or she should devote time and resources.

Of course, things don’t always go as planned, and it’s important to communicate any developments (good or bad) to avoid any nasty surprises.

“I can get it for you, but I can’t tell you where I got the information.”

For a lawyer, obtaining information that may have come from sources that are not “aboveboard” may not only be useless in a court of law, but it also may open the lawyer up to liability. If acting under the lawyer’s direction an investigator obtained information through illegal means, it may open the lawyer up to potential liability issues (think bank records and telephone records).

One may argue that critical information obtained through illicit means (bribes, illegal sources, etc.) can still be valuable, even if it can’t be used in a court of law. While that may be true, it certainly brings up ethical issues.

“I’m too busy.”

We all lead busy lives. Lawyers and Investigators have to juggle multiple clients, matters and deadlines at the same time. But that’s never an excuse for an investigator to ignore an attorney or to say that you don’t have time for a matter. Nobody ever wants to hear that he or she is not a priority.

A better way to address the situation is to work out a schedule that is beneficial to everyone. And while everyone always needs everything “as soon as possible,” the reality is that the truth is usually far from that.

“I can’t tell you how much this is going to cost.”

Nobody ever wants to hear that something requires an open-ended budget. Imagine having your taxes done by your accountant every year only to find out at the end how much they cost you.

While there are numerous cases where the ultimate cost of something really is not clear, it’s important to establish a baseline for a budget or a range. And it’s critical for both parties to be totally abreast of the billing situation. While nobody likes being billed thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, it’s worse to be surprised about being billed tens of thousands of dollars when you thought it was going to be thousands of dollars.

“I don’t think you have a chance on this.”

I’ve worked on a number of cases over the years in which the law firm that I was working for was involved in a case where it was a massive mountain to climb to ultimately have success on the case. When I mean massive, I mean like Mt. Everest, times two.

Especially when it comes to the white-collar criminal defense area. It’s just the reality of things when the conviction rate is over 95 percent. It’s one thing to think that the case does not have a chance, but it’s another thing to say it.

An investigator’s job is to serve the client as best he or she can, regardless of what the investigator thinks the outcome is going to be. Besides, not being on board with your client is a potential recipe for a disastrous outcome, which helps no one.


Aspen news outlets report on Pete Fowler’s private investigation in Krabloonik dog case

The Aspen Daily News and Aspen Times ran stories about private investigator Pete Fowler’s work on the animal cruelty allegations against Krabloonik owner Dan MacEachen. From the Aspen Times article:

Pete Fowler, a private investigator hired by MacEachen, said in an affidavit included in Greer’s filings that Courtney and Hungate had “a personal bias as well as personal motivations in making these allegations.”

Hungate was involved in a child-custody dispute with MacEachen’s daughter, Bryna, and was “using threats of reporting as leverage,” Fowler said.

The motion includes a copy of a text message sent by Hungate to Bryna MacEachen saying former mushers would testify against the kennel owner during a hearing last September. Hungate was trying to prevent Bryna MacEachen from bringing the child they have together to Krabloonik because he did not consider it a good environment for the boy.

Courtney was involved in the purchase negotiations, as was Dr. Alan Hallman, the vet interviewed by the District Attorney’s Office, Fowler noted.

And, Fowler brought to light a New Mexico case in which Courtney was found to have committed fraud. A six-figure judgment was awarded in the case. Greer also filed a motion to strike the counts against his client.

Image of Senator Linda Newell

Colorado debates PI licensing, again

After the Colorado Supreme Court did away with PI licensing in 1977, one private investigator’s trade group has been failing for over 30 years at getting licensing reinstated. The issue is now being debated again.

In 2011, the PI trade group got a voluntary licensing program established in the state. Due to inaccurate projections about how many people would obtain the license, that program lost money and became a completely unsustainable failure. Now, the group is pushing legislation trying to convert the voluntary licensing program into a mandatory one. The issue has become volatile among Colorado PIs, with plenty of petty politics, infighting, allegations of dark motives, general disagreement, and opposition to the licensing bill. There are apparently 4 different PI trade groups in the state. One anonymous blog even criticized the veins in a PI’s “big neck” at a legislative hearing.

A CBS article has more details:

Colorado lawmakers are hearing renewed debate over whether to join 44 other states in requiring private investigators to maintain state licenses.

Democratic Sen. Linda Newell has sponsored a measure that would mandate background checks and skills tests for people doing business as private eyes. This is the second year in a row Newell has raised such a proposal, saying the current system attracts unscrupulous investigators.

PI firm sued for invasion of privacy

A private investigation firm may have invaded the privacy of a man suing Amtrak for an alleged personal injury, a federal judge ruled. (Courthouse News Service)

DORA posts first step of instructions for Colorado private investigator licensing

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies has posted its instructions for fingerprint background checks to be used in applications for private investigator licenses. House Bill 11-1195 passed last year and is scheduled to go into effect July 1.

It is a voluntary licensing bill, and DORA says it will charge private investigators that choose to get the license $320 for the first year, and the amount is necessary in order to pay for the entire cost of the licensing program. DORA estimates that 250 private investigators will apply for the license this year.