Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A defense attorney & PI who also happen to be writers

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Ever Wonder Why US Judges Wear Black Robes?

Posted by Writing PIs on May 18, 2014

Today we’re posting an excerpt from our June 2014 book, A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms, which touches on a wide variety of topics about legal eagles, from the history of trials, to the steps of civil and criminal trials, to lawyers and technology, and much more, including dress codes in the courtroom. While writing about professional attires for lawyers, including colors that supposedly can sway a jury, we stumbled upon some interesting history about US judges and how they came about to wear stately black robes.

Book Excerpt: Why Judges Wear Black Robes

Courtroom criminal def XSmall

In an article Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote for The Smithsonian in 2013, she stated that little is known as to why American judges wear plain black judicial robes. Colonial judges in England wore robes, a tradition carried on in America, but the English judges wore colorful robes and ornate, powdered wigs, traditions not adopted in the new United States.

The First Supreme Court

The first US Supreme Court apparently wore somewhat colorful attire — for example, one of the first US Supreme Court Justices, William Cushing, was painted in his official portrait wearing a black and red robe with white borders, as well as a white-powdered wig.

Supreme Court Justice William Cushing

Supreme Court Justice William Cushing

Maybe Thomas Jefferson had something to do with judges toning down their sartorial styles as Jefferson immensely disliked the English judges’ pompous style of dress, saying there shouldn’t be “any needless official apparel,” especially “the monstrous wig which makes the English judges look like rats peeping through bunches of oakum.” Tell us what you really think, Thomas Jefferson.

Basic Black

By 1801, when John Marshall became chief justice, the justices all wore stately black.

As we all have seen firsthand in courtrooms, or in film, most federal and state judges in the US today continue to wear simple black robes. Justice O’Connor views this as symbolic that the judges share a common responsibility in upholding the Constitution and the rule of law. There are a few exceptions to this basic-black dress style, however, such as the Maryland Court of Appeals’ judges who wear red, and the judges of the Delaware Supreme Court who, on ceremonial occasions, add red sashes or baldrics to their robes.

Mixing It Up with Tradition

What’s interesting is that this tradition of black robes hasn’t been dictated by anything other than tradition.  There is no dress code for US judges and justices…so it’s probably no surprise there’s been the occasional mix-up, by mistake or on purpose.  Such as in 1969 when Justice Hugo Black returned to the bench without his robe on and sat on the bench, wearing his street clothes, for the remainder of the court session. To this day, no one knows if he forgot to put on his robe, or if something happened to his robe, and there are no notes in the record explaining the lack of robes.

Justice O’Connor also tells a story about Chief Justice William Rehnquist one day surprising the rest of the justices by showing up with gold stripes sewn onto one arm of his robe. He explained to the bewildered justices that he’d recently seen a Gilbert & Sullivan opera in which the lord chief justice wore a robe with gold stripes, so he wanted to have the gold stripes on his robes!

Mixing It Up in Your Story

There’s all kinds of things a writer can do with a judge’s robes in stories — maybe it’s a quirky judge who sews a badge on his robe, or a judge who decides black is too depressing and accessorizes it with a flashy scarf, or ? If a character questions the judge’s reason, he or she can state unequivocally that there is no dress code for judges, only tradition!

End of Excerpt

enter to win

To celebrate the release of A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms next month, we’re throwing a contest. Click here to enter to win a free copy of A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers and a $10 Amazon gift card. Good luck!

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A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers – The Steps of a Trial: Jury Selection

Posted by Writing PIs on May 1, 2014

Available June 2014

Available June 2014

The Writing PIs (although these days it’s more like “The Writing Criminal Defense Lawyer and PI”) have been writing  a new nonfiction book, A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms, which will be available June 2014. We just got the cover yesterday — check it out on the right. A big thank you to the talented designer Kim Killion!

Today we’re sharing an excerpt from the book — a rundown of the steps in a trial, highlighting the first step: Selecting a jury.

Book Excerpt  Steps of a Trial

Just as in a story, a trial has a beginning, middle and end. Let’s look at an overview of this sequence, starting with jury selection.

1. Selecting a Jury

The voir dire, or jury selection process, requires input from attorneys for both sides, as well as the judge. The judge and attorneys, after being given limited information about each potential juror, ask the potential jurors questions, the goal being to eliminate those who might be biased toward one side or the other during the trial.

After questioning is over, the attorneys and judge meet privately to pick the jury for the trial.  Some of the jurors are removed for cause, which means a juror has something in his/her past experience that may not allow them to be fair and impartial to both parties. Example of cause include if a juror personally knows one of the lawyers, or has been a victim of a crime similar to one being tried, or has a personal interest in the outcome of the case. Each side has an unlimited number of removals for cause.

Other potential jurors may be removed by peremptory strike, meaning each side can remove a certain number of jurors from the pool without giving a reason, although they cannot be eliminated based on race or gender.  The number of preemptory strikes depends on the jurisdiction and type of crime.

As an example, the following defines the number of strikes in federal trials:

Federal civil trial: Each side is allowed 3 peremptory strikes.

Federal criminal trial: The government’s prosecuting attorney gets 6 strikes and the defense attorney gets 10 strikes. In capital cases where the death penalty is considered, both sides get 20  strikes.

Federal misdemeanor trial (a minor crime punishable by a fine or less than a year in prison): Each side gets 3 strikes.

After all potential jurors have been removed via cause and preemptory strikes, the jury is selected, which is often referred to as their being empaneled.  After the courtroom deputy clerk swears in the jurors, and the judge gives them initial instructions, the trial can begin.

There might also be one or more alternate jurors, who are selected in the same manner as regular jurors, and hear the evidence in a case along with the regular jurors, but they do not participate with the regular jurors when they decide the case unless called upon to replace a regular juror.

— End of excerpt –


We’re happy to announce that A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms, will be available next month. Great info for writers crafting legal thrillers, fans of legal movies and TV shows, researchers and armchair legal eagles. Sampling of book topics: A History of Trials * Players in the Courtroom * Types of Lawyers, Types of Courts * Legal Ethics * Trial Preparation * Steps of a Civil and Criminal Trial * Jury Experts * Appeals * Articles on Crime, DNA, Personal Injury, DUIs * Recommended Legal Films

WHEN: May 9 – June 9, 2014

HOW: Register below in the Rafflecopter form

PRIZES: 3 Winners will each receive a Kindle copy of A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers. First-place winner to also receive $10 Amazon gift card.

 (No Kindle? No problem! Amazon provides free apps for reading on your computer or mobile device.)

HINT: The more you participate in the Rafflecopter form, the more chances you have of winning! Good luck!

To enter contest, click here.

Winners will be announced by June 15th.

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Answering Writers’ Questions About Private Forensic Labs

Posted by Writing PIs on April 14, 2014

Below are writers’ questions about private forensic labs, and our answers.

Writer’s Question: Where can someone find a private forensic lab?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: Personally, we network with other private investigators, lawyers, addiction treatment personnel, even coroners about good DEA-approved private forensic toxicology labs. We searched to see if there’s a list of these labs online and found the following:

Writer’s Question: Are all of these labs available to civilians?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes:In the link above, the specification to be on the list requires that the lab routinely performs tests for private as well as public agencies.

Writer’s Question: How much do these labs charge civilians?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes:In our personal experience (working with civilian client-cases that require chemical analytics), the cost has been about $250 per sample for drug testing. Urine testing is between $20-$150. Hair sample testing in the $120 range. If you’re needing more specific info for a story, contact a local lab and ask their prices (our experience has been that lab personnel are very accessible and can clearly explain testing methods).

Writer’s Question: What if a civilian suspected someone wanted to poison a relative?  Can they go to a lab and be upfront about their concerns?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: Funny you should ask. We actually had a private lab chemist chat with us about a case she recently had that came into her office. A mother suspected her daughter was poisoning her (putting chemicals into the mother’s nightly glass of wine). The chemist at the lab told us the mother was right — they found toxic chemicals in the sample the mother brought into the lab.

Photo courtesy of Mick Stephenson

Photo courtesy of Mick Stephenson

Writer’s Question: What is the process? What paperwork would the PI/civilian have to complete? Does the lab call/mail results? How long does it take to get results?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: All that’s necessary is chain of custody material:  That the sample was captured and handled carefully by the PI, and that it was then sealed and sent in a bag to the lab. In our experience, the lab has faxed us a simple form where we document what we requested to be tested, and how we are paying for their service (like any other business, they want the money upfront).

Regarding how the lab sends results, we typically have received results by fax and email.  We have also called the lab to inquire on the status of tests, and have found lab personnel to be very accommodating — they will take the time to answer our questions, explain their turnaround time for results, and so forth.  If they aren’t busy, we typically get results in 72 hours, sometimes a bit longer.

Writer’s Question: What evidence, if any, would the lab be required to report to law enforcement officials?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes:They don’t have a requirement to report to law enforcement.

Writer’s Question: Is there a time limit or other conditions that affect if results would be unattainable or inconclusive?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: Samples don’t lose markers for chemicals unless they are kept under poor conditions (moisture, or heat such as light).

Have a great week, Writing PIs
Click on cover to go to book's Amazon page

Click on cover to go to book’s Amazon page

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Let’s Better Understand What It’s Like for People in Wheelchairs by Colorado Defense Attorney Shaun Kaufman

Posted by Writing PIs on April 5, 2014

One of the Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s sisters is a full-time wheelchair user.  Recently, when her wheelchair began working improperly, and she feared she might fall from her chair, she called 911 for help. Firefighters arrived, cut the power to her chair, and lifted her into a backup wheelchair.  Someone we know thought this was a mis-use of 911 services, and said the wheelchair user should only have called if it had been a “life or death” emergency.

Wooden Wheelchair, early 20th century

Wooden Wheelchair, early 20th century, courtesy Wikipedia

I found this statement to be  ignorant and condescending as the guideline for making a 911 call is if someone is in imminent danger of injury as well as danger of death — for a wheelchair user afraid that he/she might be falling out of their chair, it is indeed a situation of imminent danger that can cause injury, and in fact death, as the majority of wheelchair deaths are the result of the person falling or tilting from the chair. Look, the bottom line for emergency medical intervention is to ameliorate the potential severity of injury.

Falling/Tipping from a Wheelchair: The Most Common Cause of Death

The U.S. National Library of Medicine conducted research of the death certificate database of the National Information Clearinghouse of the Consumer Product Safety Commission over a 15-year period, and identified 770 wheelchair-related deaths. The majority of those deaths, 596 persons or 77.4 %, died as a result from falling from their chairs or tipping over while in them.

Understanding the World of Those Who Use Wheelchairs

Most of us are uncomfortable to some extent with things we don’t know or understand. One of those things might be people who use wheelchairs, and may result in our saying something thoughtless without meaning to. Below are a few articles to aid understanding of those in wheelchairs:

10 Things To Never Say To A Person In A Wheelchair (via HuffPost)

Non Wheelchair User Etiquette (via Apparelyzed)

How to Interact with a Person Who Uses a Wheelchair (via WikiHow)

Save the Wheelchair (a fundraising campaign for the Roll on Capitol Hill)

Have a great weekend, Shaun/Writing PIs

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Answering Writers’ Questions: In TV Shows, Cops Welcome PIs Onto Crime Scenes – Is That Real?

Posted by Writing PIs on March 19, 2014

crime scene tape

Below are writers’ questions & our answers regarding the probability of a private investigator being allowed into an active crime scene investigation, and when an Internet site might be classified a crime scene.

WRITER’S QUESTION: It seems like I’ve seen crime scenes (with all that yellow tape) in TV shows and movies where cops invite a PI into the crime scene.  Or maybe the PI enters the crime scene and a cop will chat with the PI.  What I’m getting at, it comes across that cops will welcome PIs into their crime scenes sometimes.  Is this realistic?  If it’s not commonplace, is there a reason a cop might welcome a PI?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: Any police officer who allows a member of the public onto a crime scene is more than likely allowing the the entry because it serves the officer’s purpose.  The officer would not allow a member of the public into a crime scene in a situation where such presence would taint or pollute the crime scene.  Of course, police are much more careful about crime scenes now since the O.J. Simpson case.

Here’s a few hypothetical reasons a cop might allow/invite a PI onto a crime scene.  Maybe the PI was allowed by a court order to be on the crime scene.  Or maybe the cop wants the PI there to milk him for information.  This last reason plays out in other scenarios because police and private investigators both trade in information.

WRITER’S QUESTION: I’ve read where PIs were purchasing illegal products off some Internet selling site to bust a counterfeit operation.  They referred to the Internet site itself as a crime scene.  Could you explain what this meant?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: In any case involving counterfeiting or piracy, an essential element to be proven is the promise by the seller that the product is identical to the real, licensed product.  A website, or for the sake of an example let’s say eBay ad, that sells any counterfeit or pirated items, provides ample proof of fraudulent misrepresentations.  Therefore, the pictures and language of these websites/online ads become primary evidence of the intent to defraud, and are therefore crime scenes.

Colleen, on behalf of a law firm representing a major pharmaceutical company, once worked with a handful of other private investigators across the U.S. to investigate a counterfeit operation on eBay.  After several weeks of working undercover as customers, they were able to successfully retrieve evidence and identify the seller.  In this case, the eBay ad and the seller’s website also provided proof of fraudulent misrepresentations.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins’s new fiction novella, The Ungrateful Dead, about a fictional private-eye team at a coroners’ conference is actually loosely based on our own experience being guest speakers at our state’s coroner’s conference — minus the murder mystery, of course. To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover below or click here.

Click on cover to go to book's Amazon page

Click on cover to go to book’s Amazon page

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THE ZEN MAN, BookRooster Reviewers’ Pick, is Free March 17-19

Posted by Writing PIs on March 17, 2014

Click on cover to go to book's Amazon page

Click on cover to go to book’s Amazon page

Semifinalist Best Indie Books of 2012, The Kindle Book Reviews Reviewers’ Picks 2013
March 17: #1 Kindle Store-Mystery-Private Investigators!

#1 Kindle Store-Mystery-Private Investigators

“I loved every single word of The Zen Man!”~Delores Fossen, USA Today best-selling author

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Nick and Nora’s in Real Life

Posted by Writing PIs on March 11, 2014

Writing a sleuth?  Curious about the real world of man-and-woman P.I. teams?  Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins’s article “Current-Day Nick and Nora’s: Married Private-Eye Teams” is posted at Digital Book Today.  Below is an excerpt with a link to the full article at the end.  Enjoy!

Current-Day Nick and Nora’s: Married Private-Eye Teams

Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins August 2011

Our guest blogger is Colleen Collins author of several books including The Ungrateful Dead: Prequel to The Zen Man and The Zen Man.

Married Private-Eye Teams

What is it like being a married private-eye team? In the ten years experience my husband and I owned a private detective agency, we found it to be, for the most part, fun. We had our tense moments, but we enjoy each other’s company and love to make each other laugh, so when we look back on our P.I. days together, we have many fond memories.

These days, my husband is focused on his law practice, and I on my writing (but I still take a P.I. case from time to time), and although we enjoy our current careers, we sometimes miss those days when we’d be trying to nail a process service, rolling on surveillance or digging through trash.  Ah, the romance of it all.

Our Strengths and Weaknesses as a P.I. Team

Over ten years, we grew to understand each other’s work styles.  He’s a big-picture person, I see the details.  Those strengths can work fantastically together — and those personalities can also drive each other more than a little crazy.

Here’s one example of how our different traits meshed well.  Whenever we had a surveillance, I knew I could count on my husband calmly tackling any major issue, from losing a subject in traffic to a flat tire.  And I knew he counted on my organization and planning — for example, before we headed out to surveil someone, I’d have prepared information about the subject for us to review, from photographs of the subject/s to their possible hangouts to detailed physical descriptions, jewelry, traits, etc.

As to how our different working styles could grate on each other…well, it’s like putting together a person who sees the forest with a person who sees the trees and asking them what’s the best way through that landscape.  They’re going to have very different opinions!

Other Articles

We talk about being a P.I. team at our sister site, Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, in a recent blog “He Said, She Said: Pros and Cons of Being Married to Your PI Partner” — click here to read it.

A local magazine ran a story about us two years ago — in fact, they made us the cover story. It was a kick hanging out with the reporter, although when she didn’t get some of our sixties and seventies references, we realized we’re, well, growing older. To read “For These Married Detectives, Truth is More Fun Than Fiction” (the reporter picked that title, and she’s right…it is more fun), click here.

Other Married P.I. Teams

We’ve gotten to know a few other married PI-team couples over the years, such as Jimmie and Rosemarie Mesis who, besides running their own investigations business, also are publishers of Professional Investigator Magazine. If you’re a writer developing a sleuth character or story…

To read the full article, click here.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

Colleen’s new mystery novella, The Ungrateful Dead, featuring a private eye man-and-woman team who investigate a homicide at a coroners’ conference, is now available on Amazon.

Click on cover to go to book's Amazon page

Click on cover to go to book’s Amazon page

“I loved The Zen Man and really had fun catching Rick and Laura’s first case in the prequel, The Ungrateful Dead. These novels have everything I love in a mystery: smart dialogue, a flawed hero, a little romance and a great plot. Murder at a coroner’s conference? What could be more fun!” 
~ Nancy Warren USA Today Bestselling Author of The Toni Diamond mysteries

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Can a Private Investigator Obtain a Police File?

Posted by Writing PIs on March 10, 2014

private investigator

A writer asks how a P.I. might obtain a law enforcement report.

Writer’s Question: In the book I’m trying to write, the sister of a woman is missing. The police have finished their investigation and decided that the woman ran off. (Maybe not closed the investigation, not sure how that works in real life.) Her sister doesn’t believe that, so goes to my P.I. for help. My questions are: Can a P.I. get the file on the woman from the authorities? Is there sharing and corporation or is there conflict between them?

Answer: It’s very difficult for anyone from the private sector to obtain an open investigation file, although any private citizen can obtain access to a closed file.

But back to an open investigation file: Law enforcement officials might share verbal conclusions, but they would not share the entire body of the file. Often, there is conflict (or at least a lack of cooperation) between the private and public sectors. Things get even more complicated when you factor in the federal agencies because they consider most local law enforcement to be inferior agencies. For example, federal agencies frequently defer missing person investigations to local authorities absent special factors, which include kidnap with inter-state transport, kidnap with ransom, child kidnap, international kidnap, and  kidnapping related to international or domestic terrorism.

Saying that, there are a number of famous cases where private investigators have solved missing person and homicide cases. Not so long ago, several retired El Paso County Colorado law enforcement agents formed a private investigations agency that uncovered a serial murderer responsible for anywhere between 7-30 deaths (many of which had been unsolved for more than 10 years). This is an example of dedicated law enforcement work by those in the private sector, although we also surmise they must have had a tremendous amount of cooperation from their former agencies.


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Interview with Steven Kerry Brown, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating”

Posted by Writing PIs on February 16, 2014

This is an update on P.I.-author Steven Kerry Brown, followed by a two-part interview Guns, Gams and Gumshoes did with Steven in 2009.

Bio: Steven Kerry Brown

Steven Kerry Brown is a former FBI special agent and supervisory special agent, founder and president of Millennial Investigative Agency in Florida, novelist, author of magazine articles and nonfiction books, blogger, and has spent two years as captain of a sixty-foot ketch running sailing charters in the Bahamas.

He’s appeared on such television programs as Hard Copy and 60 Minutes, and is the author of one of the best books on private investigations around (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating — its third edition was released March 2013). He is also the author of 5 Things Women Need to Know About the Men They Date, released in April 2013.

The Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating

The first time I met Steven was back in 2004 when he called our agency and retained our services for an investigative task in Colorado. The prior year I had attended an intensive, 16-week on-site investigative course that used the The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating in its course material. I had read that book front to back, then back to front, scribbled notes in the margins, re-read — and then re-read again — numerous sections to ensure my grasp of a topic. Steven writes in a clear, straightforward manner, and sprinkles factual material with his own personal experiences.

That same year, I took another course on process service.  One day, the instructor played a Q&A game with the class — the prize for the most correct answers was a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating. 

So a year later, when the author called out of the blue and requested our P.I. services, I was honored.

Writing the Private Eye Novel

Years later, Steven’s and my paths crossed again, but this time as novelists. We both have written private-eye genre novels, and have chatted off and on about agents, publishers, even WordPress. He co-authors the blog Handcuffed to the Ocean with several other writers, one being James N. Frey, a novelist and author of one of the better books on fiction writing, How to Write a Damn Good Novel.

Undergoing a Bone Marrow Transplant

Over the past few years, I’ve grown to admire Steven even more for his gutsy perseverance as he’s undergone a bone marrow transplant. Below is the beginning of a post he wrote last June:

I’m sitting here at 11 pm eating out of a carton of Edy’s Double Fudge Brownie ice cream. Got to love life. On Saturday June 15 I passed the one year mark since some nice guy over in Germany donated his bone marrow stem cells to me. I haven’t checked the statistics this year but when I agreed to enter the BMT Clinic at Shands Cancer Institute in Gainesville, Florida the mortality rate for bone marrow transplant patients was fairly high. 

Many of Steven’s friends and colleagues in the P.I. industry have contributed to his Bone Marrow Transplant Fund to help with the $500,000 in expenses for this procedure. Recently, there have been complications, which Steven wrote about in September 2013 — below is the beginning of that post:

I really thought I would have my immune system back by now. Most of the BMT transplant patients I’ve met received their shots by the end of the first year. But, now I’m convinced that I may never get it back. I’ve had a few set backs these last few weeks. I encountered a big flare up of GVHD that took over my entire torso. The doctors put me back on prednisone and other immune suppressant medication. I told the doctors I’d rather have the GVHD than the prednisone. But they said this flare up was life threatening, so I really didn’t have a choice.

Despite what he’s going through, his humor shines through — check out this poem to his doctors (posted on his September 2013 blog):

I wrote a little poem for the doctors about GVHD.


Itch, itch, Itch,

Like a son of a 

Bitch, bitch, bitch.

By the way, this post includes photos of his symptoms (he does this to help others who might be contemplating a bone marrow transplant). Be forewarned — these photos are graphic.

At the end of this post, Steven writes:

Thanks for the well wishes and the donations. I promise as soon as I can I’ll get back to investigating the Haleigh Cummings case. I do have more posts on that coming up soon.

Amazes me that while dealing with his health challenges over the last year+ he has also self-published one nonfiction book and revised another. Puts the notion of “writer’s block” to shame.

To donate to Steven’s Bone Marrow Transplant Fund, click here (Donate button is on left side of screen).

Now to the 2009 interview with P.I.-author Steven Kerry Brown…

Steven Kerry Brown post 2-16-2014

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: Good morning, Steven, and welcome to Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes. First, we have to say that The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating  is one of our favorite resource books. As we haven’t seen this second edition, we imagine you’ve updated it with more technology and tools–saying that, what is one of the more useful technological techniques you’ve recently started using in your investigative work?

Steven: There are three really useful techniques that are relatively new that I use a lot.  Two of them I describe in detail in my book. The first is the GPS tracking device. Below is a photo with the unit in a waterproof Pelican case and a 50 pound pull magnet and a long life lithium-ion battery pack. (Not much larger than a man’s hand.)

I set this unit (I have two of them) to report in every 10 minutes. I change the batteries out once a week. I also have the capability of clicking on “tracking now” on the unit’s website and receive a real-time location of where the unit is. So you or your client can sit in front of their computer and see where the unit is at any given time.  Of course, the primary use of this is in family law cases. Even though Florida is a “no fault” divorce state (meaning that proof of adultery doesn’t have a real impact on property settlement), still the client needs to know the facts of their situation before they can make an informed decision. Hence, using the GPS to track the spouse.

We follow-up the use of the GPS with a little judicious surveillance. Even though the GPS will tell us where the spouse is, it won’t tell us who he/she is with, so a few photos of the spouse and the other party will usually do the trick. And don’t be fooled by clichés. There are not more men than women committing adultery. We find it splits about 50-50.

The second technique I like a lot is Spoofing Caller ID. Now you have to be careful with this as it is now illegal in some states, like Florida, if you spoof a caller ID with the intent to deceive. How does it work and how do I use it? You can do a websearch on Spoofing Caller ID and find lots of folks who will sell you spoofing time. I use  For $5.00 you get 25 minutes of spoofing time. Basically spoofing caller ID means that you can use this service to call a target number and the incoming caller ID will display any number you want it to show. The technology behind it is the spoofing company uses Voice Over IP (VOIP) to make the call and in doing so can send whatever Caller ID data you want sent. (You can find full details in the CIG to PI pages 184-188)

How do you use caller ID spoofing? Well, you might for instance, want to see if a certain person is at a particular residence. Before the law changed in Florida, I called a witness to a case that I needed to talk to. He wouldn’t answer my calls so I spoofed my number to look like his mother’s phone was calling him. He answered the call.

The third technique I like only works on cell phone numbers. You can use this service and it will bypass the phone and go directly to the cell phone’s voice mail. That way you can hear the message on the voice mail and sometimes figure out who the phone belongs to without them ever knowing you called the phone. It’s not perfect and your number might show up as a missed call on their phone. The service is called Slydial and their number is 267-759-3425. It’s free, give it a try. A database only available to PIs called Skipsmasher, has a much improved version of this service which will not leave your number on the target’s phone as a missed call and it will record the voice mail message for you. I love it and use it often. Kudos to

End of interview, Part 1. Check back in on Thursday, January 14, for Part 2 where Steven discusses the recession and private eyes, crafting non-fiction vs. fiction, and how much real-world PI dirt he puts into a fictional-world PI story.


The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating, Third Edition

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