|Posted by Gladys on December 29, 2009 at 10:54 PM|
Private Investigators get calls daily from concerned parents and spouses who need to obtain evidence to insure fairness in their divorce proceedings and in some cases getting the edge they feel they deserve. There is a genuine need for admissable evidence. I am not an attorney and you should always consult an attorney for sound legal advice. However I do know what I would NOT do as a Private Investigator either because it is blatently illegal or in the gray zone and I don't want to be the lone PI who becomes the test case and ruins my clients chances of a fair judicial decision because of my unwise zeal in assisting my clients.
You would do well to really learn and abide by state laws guiding you as to what measures you can take in securing evidence for your divorce. Obtaining cell records from a private account other than through a court order or from a bill laying around in the open or in the trash can cost you an arrest and definately cost you valuable evidence in your litigation. A much better approach is to gain enough reasonable evidence to prove to a judge that you need a subpeona for those records to be produced by the other spouse, other party or the cell phone company. The same is true for land line phones, get the records legally.
Some legal ways to obtain any paper record is through looking through the trash at the roadside since this is now public domain, finding them in common areas of the home, and a court order. What good does it do if you get records but then cannot present them in court? You may think well I will just look over the records and then present the evidence another way, that may be possible but a smart attorney is going to want to know where you obtained your evidence originally so you need to have a plan.
If you hire a PI to conduct surveillance, check online social networking sites, data bases and interviews you may find a host of evidence that you can now introduce legally and get the court order you need for those records which will seal the deal.
Another reason to follow the laws in obtaining evidence is that if you break the law, you could be arrested, have your children taken away and or do jail time. There is no evidence so necessary to obtain that way to forfeit your freedom or your childrens well being.
Another area that is questionable is in the area of GPS surveillance. Some states have more clarity than others on this but the rule of thumb that most PI's use is that if you own or co own the vehicle you have every legal right to track it. You can do this for a short time to monitor your spouse or teens activity for a specific reason or you can do it on a longer term basis to develop a historical basis for your goals. You can use historical tracking which will tell you where the vehicle has been or live tracking which can assist your Private Investigator in staying a safe distance while conducting surveillance so they can get into a position to take video and pictures as needed. I strongly advise you against putting a GPS on any vehicle that you do not own unless you have that persons permission. You could be arrested for stalking, or tampering if you hard wire it, or trespassing. Keep in mind there is not alot of legal cases out there yet dealing with this in the domestic arena but local law enforcement often can take matters and rearrange them not to your favor if it suits them.
Another area where gaining evidence legally is paramount is in the area of audio and video surveillance. You need to check your state laws on audio recording. In Mississippi the law states as long as one party knows there is a recording it is legal. That does not mean you can put down an audio recorder and walk away leaving it on indefinately since you are no longer a party to the conversation. That is wiretapping and against federal law and carries heavy penalties as a felony. The only time you can audio tape someone is if you are present in the conversation in a one party state. Other states say two parties present must be aware of the recording, and still others say all parties must have knowledge that they are being recorded. Those states have the strictest laws and you would do well to know which state you are in. You can google this and anything else I mention in this article and find lists and guidelines for these areas.
Video surveillance is a little easier to stay abreast of the legalities. Most video surveillance is legal providing there is no disclaimer forbidding it such as in government situations, military sites where national security is at stake or in private corporations where infringement of trade secrets are in question and in domestic situations in bedrooms and bathrooms or where minors are present. People have a reasonable expectation of privacy under our US Constitution in their bedrooms and bathrooms. You can put covert surveillance items in hallways, near the door way of the bedrooms, in all the common areas and outside. Keep in mind though in some states stationary surveillance equipment that is hard wired in or outside the home needs to be installed by a professional licensed security techician since electricity may be involved and there are laws governing this type of installation. However you can put a smoke detector, picture, teddy bear or decorative item in a legally acceptable place with the video surveillance option only.
Your private investigator should know that they can video tape your spouse and children outside your home, or in any other envirorment as long as the intent is to gain evidence for court not to use in any defaming way. Video taping beyond the window and or glass doors is illegal in many states as the laws usually assume that anything that can be seen with the naked eye without the use of any assistance at the window or door is acceptable but penetrating beyond the windows or doors or even walls with extraordinary means such as telephoto lenses, infra red etc would be considered an invasion of privacy.
These are just some basic ideas and guidelines to keep you on the right side of the law and in the best position to be able to legally present your evidence in court. Again consult an attorney and check your state laws to be sure what the legal limits are and when in doubt stay on the cautious side. You will find in the end the judge will be more favorable to you when you respect the law and present legally obtained evidence to the courts.