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Private Investigator Rules of Engagement

July 15th, 2015 | Ethics | 0 Comments

The scales of justice.

Part 1: Legal and Ethical Responsibilities in Accepting Assignments

From The Rockford Files to Magnum, P.I. till today’s top private investigation TV series, private investigators have been successfully promoted as arbiters of truth, who work tirelessly to uncover the facts for their clients. On the same token, however, pop culture has ingrained several misconceptions about private investigators in the public eye. Although we want to believe that investigators often discover essential evidence or catch perpetrators acting unlawfully within minutes of surveilling subjects, it simply does not happen that way — not even in the black-and-white era of television! And, while it is entertaining to see fictional investigators engage in high speed car chases, use firearms, bug phones, and enter businesses and private residences illegally, reality ordains that private investigators are ordinary citizens who must abide by laws and regulations, both State and Federal. Furthermore, ethical issues establish even broader limitations as to the methods employed by investigators (but don’t let the cold hard reality deter you from your favorite P.I. TV series)!

One of the most crucial things to know before presenting a case to a licensed private investigator is that we cannot, under any circumstance, break the law. That means if you request that we violate any local, state or federal regulations, or push the boundaries of the law to any degree, in order to investigate your subject of interest, we will not be permitted to involve ourselves in that transgression — both legally and ethically. Private investigators are constrained under the same governing laws as the ordinary citizen, and cannot commit criminal acts to obtain any type of information. Unfortunately, we are not, by any means, exempt from legal consequences. In fact, conducting an investigation unlawfully would potentially carry even more negative implications for private investigators than it would for the ordinary citizen, as it would also mean jeopardizing our licenses and permanently ending our careers.

Although license disqualifiers may vary by state, majority of states will disqualify an individual from even applying for a PI license if any of the following apply to you, according to the Detective Training Institute:

  • Have ever been convicted of a felony, whether or not your conviction was subsequently set aside, and your Civil Rights were restored.
  • Are currently under indictment for a felony, or named in an outstanding arrest warrant.
  • Have been convicted of any misdemeanors involving personal violence, misconduct with a deadly weapon, dishonesty or fraud, arson, theft, domestic violence, narcotics, or sexual misconduct within the last five years preceding your application.
  • Are on parole, community supervision, work furlough, home arrest, or release.
  • Are on probation pursuant to a conviction for any act of personal violence or domestic violence¹

It is our mission to emphasize that breaking the law is not in our job description, and it is not something in which we will engage — not only because of the legal consequences as stated above, but also because our firm operates with integrity and functions within strict ethical parameters. If a client calls with a proposition, we first inquire about his or her relationship to the subject of interest, and then we question the underlying motivation for the investigation. If no attorney-investigator relationship exists, and no subpoenas are presented to our firm, we will not be able to breach the subject’s privacy, as defined by the law. That leads us to a simple list of actions that should not [would not legally] be taken by private investigators with professionalism.

What WON’T a professionally licensed and credentialed Private Investigator do for an assignment without subpoenas or consent of the subject of interest?

  • Break the law — simple, but widely misunderstood!
  • Record any conversations or actions without full disclosure (e.g. no wiretapping or installation of covert audio/video devices).
  • Obtain bank account information of businesses or individuals without a lawful court order.
  • Obtain cell phone records, text messages, or provide cell phone spyware.
  • Hack computers.
  • Use pretext, or act in a deceitful manner, in order to obtain any type of statement from a subject. That he or she would not have provided otherwise.
  • Utilize a false identity or ruse to gain knowledge of the subject.
  • Obtain driver’s license or registration information without a legal right to do so.
  • Physically contact subjects inappropriately with an opposing party represented.
  • Trespass – whether it’s a private property or a prohibited area.
  • Extend the relationship with any party beyond the scope of the assignment (i.e. personal, business or social).

Stay tuned for our next blog posting for an explanation of the legal investigative methods Jennings Smith Associates, Inc. employs to assist clients in any of our service offerings.

If you or your organization have any questions or concerns regarding the legal or ethical standards of licensed private investigators, contact us toll-free at 866-629-3757 or email us at info@jsainvestigations.com and we’ll assist you in getting the facts you need. We look forward to hearing from you.


NSA to Release More Details in Surveillance Leak

June 13th, 2013 | Cyber, Privacy, Private Investigator, Security | 0 Comments

Since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the National Security Agent a few weeks ago, and then fled to Hong Kong, the NSA has been under a great deal of pressure to explain just why they are invading the privacy of Americans without cause.

NSA to Release More Details in Surveillance Leak

The Director of the NSA explained that the information given out by Edward Snowden has created many misconceptions and inaccuracies about the program and why they collect communications data on people in the United States.

The Director said that the problem with divulging certain information is that it could supposedly put the American people in danger with that information. The NSA claims that they have been collecting communications data is to keep terrorism at bay.

The Director goes on to say, “The more we know, the more dangerous this situation becomes,” he said, adding that people believed to be intent on doing Americans harm had already altered their activities since the existence of the programs became public.

The whole ordeal has caused a great deal of confusion about whether or not Edward Snowden has broken the law or not and what his intentions were behind everything.

Senior Democrat, C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger stated, “He’s broken the law,”. “We have laws in the United States for whistle-blowers, for people who think injustice is being done. Yet he chose to go to China.”

Google Glass – A New Investigative Tool

May 30th, 2013 | Privacy, Private Investigator | 0 Comments

This is the new tool that has been creating the buzz all over the internet. Google has held four public discussions showing off their new amazingly innovative product – Google Glass. The product is a pair of glasses that allows the user wearing them to surf the internet, record video, and more.

Could this be the new investigative tool? In order to get the product early, you need to do a video of why you want the product and why you should be one of the chosen ones who get it. What person than a private investigator to need this product? It’s smooth, slick, and only costs $1200! The coolest aspect about this new product is that it looks just like the person is simply wearing reading glasses.

To find more information on this new product – check out Google Glass for yourself. ☺

Safety, Security, & Emergency Planning in our Nation’s Schools

March 20th, 2013 | Private Investigator, Security | 0 Comments

Think about getting a second opinion or even multiple opinions.

Dr. Victor H. Ferry, Ph.D., Senior Security Consultant

School safety, security and emergency management are now in the forefront of American educational leader thought. Finally, even national and state level politicians and others have come to the conclusion something more needs to be done to curb school violence and tragedies. A few years back, primarily after “Columbine,” school districts scurried to obtain crises plans; plans they could hold up to demonstrate something locally was being done, or at least thought about, to curtail the possibility of a calamity. Fact is and unfortunately, many of these were simply “feel good” actions by educators. The process was simple, get a copy of an existing plan, copy it and distribute it to those in charge of schools and students. The needed details to accompany true E-­‐plans or crises plans lay in future actions, many years away and have only recently been addressed in many districts, many within the past few to 5 years. Clearly, the initial actions were honorable and represented recognition that something more than the status quo needed to be addressed. However, much was done sans the benefit of any formal safety or security education, or even experience in the need to address school threats, especially those posed by a suicide shooter. These were almost unheard of in schools and considered unthinkable. Currently, schools are necessarily reassessing preparedness across a wide spectrum of threats. Now, use of or practice of the plans will no longer be eclipsed by an earlier more highly perceived priority: a focus on the education of America’s young. The realization that student safety and welfare has reached its pinnacle of awareness and priority among educators everywhere is an outcome brought about by unspeakable tragedy. Educators and politicians everywhere recognize the need for broad involvement in emergency planning opinions, counsel and advice by trained specialists experienced in safety-­‐security management in reviewing all emergency and crises planning. Schools attempting to go it alone risk the possibility of missing a key point or issue that could save lives.

Most importantly, Districts must retain only licensed and professionally certified Security firms that have documented experience in conducting Security, Safety, and Emergency Management Audits and Assessments at educational facilities.

For information as to how our firm can help you in assessing your school district’s safety, security and emergency management needs, contact us via email at www.jsainvestigations.com or call us at 860-­‐693-­‐6195.

© Jennings Smith Associates 2013

PNC Bank Warning ALL Customers

January 5th, 2013 | Business Security, Cyber, Privacy, Private Investigator, Security | 0 Comments

It’s not breaking news now that PNC experienced a major cyber attacks in the last few weeks on a few of it’s major websites. Their IT team has been working hard to fight off these cyber attacks while maintaining website and mobile access for customers, however, there was still a great deal of damage done and information exposed.

PNC Bank Warning Customers

PNC’s IT team noticed a sporadic spikes of high traffic, which have indicated cyber attacks in the past. Therefore, PNC sent out a mass email to about 5 million of their customers warning them of the traffic spikes they’ve noticed and to be cautious. The attacks cause a great deal of traffic to visit their major websites, causing their websites to work at an extremely slow pace for customers.

On a more positive note, PNC also stated that they use encryption software to protect all of their customers’ information during these cyber attacks.
PNC is a great example of preventing disaster by taking high security action. Unfortunately, many businesses fail to do this and when a cyber attack occurs, customer information is exposed and a great deal of damage is done.

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See also 110,000 Cyber Attacks – Per Hour On United States Government

  • Jennings Smith Associates Professional Certifications

    • Professional Certified Investigator (PCI), ASIS International
    • Certified Protection Professional (CPP), ASIS International
    • Physical Security Professional (PSP), ASIS International
    • Certified Homeland Security Level 5 (CHS-V), American Board for Certification in Homeland Security
    • Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP), Disaster Recovery Institute International
    • Certified Healthcare Safety Professional (CHSP), Board of Certified Hazard Control Management
    • Certified Healthcare Emergency Professional (CHEP), Board of Certified Hazard Control Management
    • Certified Safety & Health Manager (CSHM), Institute for Safety and Health Management
    • Certified Hazard Control Manager (CHCM), Board of Certified Hazard Control Management
    • Certified Forensic Consultant (CFC), American College of Forensic Examiners International

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    Cyber Forensic Investigations

    JSA's cybersecurity experts are ready to assist you with a complete array of cybercrime protection, data recovery, and evidence collection services. Cyber forensic Investigations include: unauthorized data access; PII (personal identifiable information) exposure; IP (intellectual property/proprietary information) theft; employee social media/email/messaging abuse; ransomware data corruption; and more.

    Cyber Forensics Continued

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