This week I was quoted in an article published in the Connecticut Law Tribune entitled “Digital Evidence Outmodes Physical Evidence in Divorce Cases”. One is never usually thrilled with the quotes selected (of all the great material provided!), but as they say, any publicity is better than no publicity at all.
The premise of the piece was that certain lawyers were suggesting private investigators are not as necessary as they once were in divorce cases thanks to electronic information and social media etc. “Private detectives are mostly gone. Computer techs are the new experts,” said one.
Wow, am I glad that’s not true!
We conduct a ton of high-level family investigations with a focus in Fairfield County, and I am glad to say that nothing could be further than the truth – we, and my colleagues who are high-quality investigators, are busier than ever. And we work with most of the big family law firms.
Sure, some affairs can be discovered more easily due to texts, emails and messages retrieved from phones and computers, but this does not affect all the other, highly critical work necessary in family cases, the bulk of which are custody and cohabitation cases, asset investigations and, yes, identifying affairs.
“From tracking devices to social media, there is a significant decrease in the need to hire a PI”, said another attorney, adding “Sometimes a person’s own conduct on social media is the best evidence of their judgment.” Wow! Sure, social media is a component in 100% of every investigation we do, and we use tracking devices when legally allowed to do so. But to think that PI’s are going away because of those two components is naïve. Technology and social media are certainly important components, but they are just part of the equation in family cases that are almost always complex projects with a lot of moving parts.
While I’m happy for the exposure, of course only a few of the items I contributed were published, so here’s a full summary of what I provided to the Connecticut Law Tribune: I couldn’t have said it better myself…
From our perspective, electronic information is only enhancing our work, not reducing it. The idea that conventional PI work is dwindling, I’m thankful to say, is just not true – in fact, ubiquitous electronic data actually guarantees that there is even more need than ever for the skilled investigator. Of course, public and commercial databases contain more and more information, from both a depth and jurisdictional perspective, but it is the skill of the investigator that is required to plough through the data and determine what information involves our subject and what does not. Remember: databases don’t think, they just link – it’s up to us more than ever to determine what information is pertinent and what can be eliminated. But that’s only just the beginning: The mobile surveillance industry is stronger than ever and attorneys show no signs of slowing down in their need to understand the daily activities of plaintiffs; court case documents still have to be pulled and reviewed onsite at courthouses; driver’s histories for litigation cases can still only be obtained onsite at Connecticut DMV in Wethersfield; subpoenas still have to be served in person; cohabitation activity checks still require an ongoing physical presence; cameras still require physical installation; electronic sweeps can only be conducted onsite by trained experts; effective forensic handwriting analysis requires an expert with dozens of years of experience; tough locates still often require knocking on doors and neighborhood inquiries; and interviews can only be effectively conducted in person, as absolutely no one will talk freely over the phone anymore thanks to telemarketers and scams.
Physical, mobile surveillance is a routine component for many family attorneys, however, electronic surveillance through GPS tracking devices is illegal unless you own the vehicle on which they are placed. Any such information would be illegally obtained and, more importantly, inadmissible. We use social media in just about every case now, but information can only be legally gathered from the public portions of social media accounts, otherwise again, the information gained would be inadmissible. Accessing metadata from phones through geo-fences and the like depends on a subject keeping their location services on and active, which most people of interest don’t. Either way, knowing where they physically are still doesn’t tell you what they’re doing.
It is the very fact that electronic information is so readily available that real, skilled, actual investigators are needed even more than ever. Our litigation work is booming and thankfully, from my perspective, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.