Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A blog for PIs and writers/readers of the PI genre

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Welcome to Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes!

Posted by Writing PIs on June 9, 2009

Hello from the “writing PIs”–we’re professional PIs, who also happen to be writers, and we’ve combined both worlds in our Writing PIs in Novels online courses (see the Writing PIs in Novels link on the right side of this screen).  We own a private detective agency in Denver, Colorado,  where we specialize in legal investigations, domestic relations, personal injury, financial fraud, and babying a Rottweiler who thinks life’s all about sleeping in our her leather recliner.


We’re kicking off this blog to:

  • Discuss topics of interest in the private investigations field.
  • Post our articles on writing about sleuths, PIs, law enforcement, and legal eagles.
  • Address questions from writers about writing PIs/sleuths.

For this first post, we thought it’d be interesting to excerpt several of the past Q&As we’ve had in our classes from writers asking questions about private investigators.   Read on and feel free to comment:

WRITER’S QUESTION:  Are PIs given search warrants? And do you need a search warrant to snoop around public institutions like a university?

ANSWER:   Regarding search warrants, no, they aren’t issued to PIs.  Search warrants are a creature of law enforcement and they allow the government to intrude into areas owned or controlled by private persons or businesses.  Regarding the second part of your question, anyone may search an area of a public university that is open to public view and accessible to everyone.  Contrast this with a professor’s office or a student’s dorm room–there is an expectation to privacy in either scenario and a member of the public entering either one without permission commits a crime.  If law enforcement should enter these areas without a warrant, or without the consent of the occupants, any evidence obtained would be excluded in court and the law enforcement personnel could be disciplined (although this
isn’t likely).

WRITER’S QUESTION:  First, is there a time frame that an area remains a crime scene? I’m picturing the yellow caution tape in a public place and wondering how long that remains up. You mentioned a PI has the benefit  of arriving at a scene long after the body is found, so when is the scene no longer a scene? What happens if the PI arrives just a little  too late? And how does time frame apply to a crime scene in a residence? If say someone is found dead in a family room, how long do the residents of the house need to stay out of the room? I’m thinking  that from the time the police leave to when a PI shows up, a lot could happen in that room if a family member so desires.

ANSWER:  It’s important to make the distinction between what crime scene investigators for the police consider a crime scene and what the rest of us, including PIs, consider a crime scene.  In the latter instance, a crime scene is really just the place where a crime happened, which has returned to everyday use.  However, what police and crime scene investigators consider a crime scene is that area where, such as the space inside the yellow tape, careful protocols for evidence recordation and extraction are followed.

Regarding time frames, a police crime scene excludes all but those who are trained to respect procedures for preservation and collection of evidence.  Generally speaking, after a period of approximately 1-24 hours, the area is returned to normal use.

A PI would most likely never be allowed to enter a police crime scene.  PIs, however, can visit a crime scene long evacuated by the police and still gather critical evidence.  For example, in one of our experiences, we re-visited the scene of an attempted vehicular assault at least a month after it occurred.  What evidence did we gather weeks after the event?  For starters, the tire marks were still clearly seen on the pavement–we photographed these marks for the attorney.  We also measured the area where a complex set of vehicular maneuvers were alleged to have occurred.  Additionally, we videotaped the pattern of vehicular travel at the exact speeds alleged by the police.

Regarding a crime scene in a residence, specifically (per your question) a dead body found therein:  Be mindful that police will remove those parts of the family room that they consider important evidence (for example, blood-stained carpeting and drywall spattered with blood).  Also, police will photograph/videotape the family room in the exact state in which they found it.  In other words, by the time the family returns and changes anything, the PI will have copies of police photographs as well as access to physical evidence that’s within police custody.  There are certainly instances where PIs would still seek access to the home (for example, to photograph the layout, measurements, etc.) but that is accomplished through court order or consent of the victim’s family.

Thanks for visiting!

–End of post–

Disclaimer: Our comments are for the purpose of discussion and are not intended to supplant formal/approved training programs directed at private investigators.  This content is also not intended as legal advice.


23 Responses to “Welcome to Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes!”

  1. Lori Wilde said

    Hi Coco,

    The Blog looks great. Can’t wait for more PI info.

  2. Robin Stone said

    What a great start to what I expect to be a great blog! Very informative. What sort of things will you be addressing from week to week? Keep up the good work!

    • writingpis said

      Dear Robin:

      We’ll be addressing topics from surveillance to a typical PI’s office to DNA. We’ll also be answering readers’ questions about investigations in general. Thanks for checking out our blog!

  3. Hey, this is soooo cool! I am in awe of your non-writing life, esp. since I’m such a weenie I can’t even read about crime without getting all creeped out.

    Remarkable. Look forward to visiting this blog again!


    • writingpis said

      We’ll be covering topics that aren’t creepy, too, so look forward to having you back!

  4. A wonderful beginning to what promises to be a great blog. You have answers that most authors thirst for and we appreciate your time and information.

    Betty Gordon

    • writingpis said

      Thanks, Betty, for dropping by our “grand opening.” We think this blog will be an informative mix of articles and Q&As.

  5. Oh–this is so valuable! Thank you. YOu must be so annoyed when writers get it wrong–do you see that all the time?

    And this is a perfect way to help. I’ll come visit often.

    • writingpis said

      Appreciate your dropping by, Hank. When we see misrepresentations of PIs in books and other media, we’re often baffled, sometimes amused, and occasionally annoyed. Look forward to your future visits!

  6. Oh–write a blog about mistakes and misconceptions someday! That would be hilarious… (and I know “hilarious” is just what you’re going for…)

    xo Hank

  7. Mario said

    Great title for your blog. Great info. Am looking forward to more.

  8. Mariane T said

    Great Blog! Just the sort of information needed to make my writing realistic. I’ll definitely be coming back.


  9. Mark Troy said

    Wow, this is the resource I need. I’m going to visit often.

    Mark Troy


    Hi Hank,

    This is one of the coolest sites I’ve seen in a long time. I am so anxious to read PRIME TIME. It would be great to win one but I’ll read it one way or another.


  11. Mina Gerhart said

    Congrats on the grand opening!
    Love your blog, as a reader I’m always interested in the background of books.

    Mindy 🙂

  12. Rita A. said

    There certainly is more to the PI than meets the eye. Great information.

  13. patsy hagen said

    Can’t say it enough…Very, very interesting site.

  14. Gord said

    What a great newsletter! I’ll be looking forward to more. Some of the questions and answers are really good – things most of us wouldn’t even think of.

  15. Patsy Cobb said

    This is such a great blog. It has a lot of interesting information for writers and anyone who is interested in the life of a PI. I will definitely be visiting it often.

  16. leolalee hardin said


  17. Stefanie said

    What a fun idea this is! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the picture under “Into The Wild”! It is absolutely georgeous!

    There is so much useful and fun information, that I have actually bookmarked this so that I can keep coming back for more! Thank you for doing something like this! It is soooo easy to navigate and find EVERYTHING!

    Both my kids want to be CSIs when they get older, and are each taking a fun CSI summer class offered by the school here! My daughter is reading everything here in hopes that it will help her in the summer class LOL! I am sure that it actually will give her great tips and ideas!
    (My son is too lazy to read over the summer LOL 😛 )!!!

  18. gloria said

    Looks like a very serious pooch, is he a sleuth dog, probably spelled that wrong. He looks like he would make a crook think twice, but then some doggies look ferocious but would let a burgular, can’t spell today, tired lol, take the house away with them because they are actually fraidy cats or super friendly. Is this pooch in one of your books?

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