Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A defense attorney & PI who also happen to be writers

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Archive for the ‘PI Topics’ Category

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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HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT? Only 99 cents February 8-10

Posted by Writing PIs on February 8, 2014

How Do Private Eyes Do That? is a compilation of articles about private investigations written by Guns, Gams & Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins. Audience: Readers interested in the world of PIs, including fiction writers, researchers, investigators and those simply curious about the profession.

99 cents February 8-10

Click on cover to go to book’s Amazon page

Book Excerpts

“Never Sleep with Anyone Whose Troubles Are Worse than Your Own”

“How PIs Are Used in Cases Where DNA Evidence Is Employed”

How Do Private Eyes Do That? tells the real story behind private investigations

How Do Private Eyes Do That? discusses tips, techniques and tools of the P.I. profession

Praise for How Do Private Eyes Do That?

“A must have for any writer serious about crafting authentic private eyes. Collins knows her stuff.”
- Lori Wilde, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

“If you’re looking for the lowdown on private investigations, this is it. Packed with details and insights. A must-have for anybody writing private-eye fiction and for anybody who’s curious about what being a private-eye is really like.” 
- Bill Crider, author of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series and many other novels in multiple genres

“I picked up my copy as a whim to flesh out the background of my own fictional PI, and after reading the book, trashed just about everything I had written. I see now that you have to pay for the book. No matter. It is a spectacular bargain. It will help sweep out misconceptions, empty the waste bin of trite, worn out cliches and give you plenty of room for fresh ideas. Man, it’ll save your life.” 
- C. M. Briggs

fedora black and white

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Seven of Our Favorite Private Investigator Blogs in 2013

Posted by Writing PIs on January 15, 2014

We like to kick off the each new year with a list of some of our favorite P.I. and P.I.-related blogs. Not claiming these are the top or the best because there’s a lot of informative to entertaining blogs out there, so view this as a sampling of Internet stops we like to make.

Some Favorite Blogs, edited by Tamara Thompson, is a well-known California private investigator, speaker and blogger known for her expertise in Internet data gathering, genealogical and adoption research, witness background development and locating people. Her blog provides such information as research how-to-articles, lists of resources and private investigator research links. Twitter handle: @PIbuzz


Diligentia Group is a boutique investigative firm that provides services to law firms, financial institutions, and decision makers who require comprehensive background and due diligence investigations.  Brian Willingham, CFE and president, has been a private investigator since 2001. He blogs almost daily, most of which fit into one of the following categories: Background Investigations, Due Diligence and Legal Investigation. For a sampling of readers’ favorite posts on his site, check out this post: “The Top Ten: 2013′s Most Popular Posts from Diligentia Group.” Follow @b_willingham on Twitter.


Mike Spencer of Spencer Elrod Services, Inc. has been a private investigator for nearly two decades, in the course of which he worked with legendary Hollywood private eye John Nazarian. Mike writes interesting, relevant and sometimes downright entertaining articles about the profession at his blog Private Eye Confidential. He’s also in the process of publishing a nonfiction book titled Private Eye Confidential, and we can’t wait to buy a copy. Here are some book excerpts from Mike’s blog:

Private Eye Confidential: Introduction

Private Eye Confidential: I Was a Florida Night Cops Reporter

Follow him on Twitter at @SpencerPI


Kevin’s Security Scrapbook – Spy News from New York. Kevin D. Murray is an independent security consultant who specializes in surveillance detection services, and solving security and privacy problems, as well as being the author of Is My Cell Phone Bugged?. He’s a prolific blogger, with the majority of his posts focused on his area of expertise, surveillance, as well as P.I. news and trends, and the occasional fun post (Trending TV: Spies are Hot, Again).  His Twitter handle: @spybusters

Sherlocks articles: is an advertising site for private investigators that also includes a section on investigative articles. Some are written by professional PIs, others are links to articles about investigations. also does annual listings of top P.I.s on Twitter:

Featured on - Top Private Investigators on Twitter 2013 also does an annual ranking of Top Private Investigator Blogs:

Featured on - Top - Investigator - Blogs’s Twitter handle: @PInow


Pursuit Magazine: This has become one of our favorite stops on the Internet. It’s more than a blog — it’s an online magazine that was revamped last year, and the result is fantastic: A splashy new look, a wider breadth of articles that includes interviews with acclaimed authors such as Maria Konnikova who wrote Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, industry news and more. Follow on Twitter: @PursuitMag


Defrosting Cold Cases is owned by Alice de Sturler, a former human rights lawyer and current cold case investigator. Besides being the official blogger for The American Investigative Society of Cold Cases, her blog Defrosting Cold Cases won first place this year in the American Bar Association Journal’s top 100 blogs, Criminal Justice category. Alice also hosts a Twitter chat (#crimechat) each month on crime and related topics. To check the #crimechat schedule for 2014, click here (it’s in the middle of the page). Her Twitter handle: @Vidocq_CC

As we said at the beginning of this post, there’s other P.I. blogs that offer great content. Here’s a few: Denver Private Investigator Blog, Handcuffed to the Ocean, The Background Investigator, Kusic and Kusic Ltd.

Some Fun Blogs

Invisible Privacy |Online Privacy

How can you resist a blog with this introduction:

JJ Luna’s personal privacy blog. In 1959 he moved to Spain’s Canary Islands to begin a then-illegal educational work that included secret meetings in remote mountain forests. Although pursued by General Franco’s Secret Police, he maintained his privacy via a false identity and was never caught. When the Spanish dictator moderated Spain’s harsh laws in 1970, Luna was free to come in from the cold. However, he remains in the shadows to this day. He is currently an international privacy consultant.

Unfortunately, J.J. Luna’s last post was December 25, 2013, in which he explained why he hadn’t been able to blog in several months (he and his wife are dealing with health issues) so it’s possible he’ll not be blogging regularly in the future.


Bitter Lawyer offers an irreverent look at the profession of law, which features — quote — “lawyer jokes, news, and celebrity lawyer interviews from a team of prominent (and sometimes anonymous) writers”.  Today’s featured blog is titled “Best Ways to Serve Booze in the Office” – need we say more?

Check Out the Writing PIs’ Other Sites Shaun Kaufman’s criminal defense blog. Shaun’s legal blog on topics ranging from Gmail tips for lawyers to preventing legal disputes with neighbors. Colleen’s book news, with an occasional article on writing or investigations.

Colleen’s Facebook Page: Mostly book news, with some fun stuff thrown in.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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New Year’s Resolutions: A Few Tips for Protecting Your Privacy in 2014

Posted by Writing PIs on December 30, 2013

It’s almost 2014 — let’s go over a few tips you might want to add to your New Year’s Resolutions for protecting your confidential information.

Tip #1: Stop giving out your home address

It’s your home, your private residence, the center of your family life — you don’t need to share this

Don't advertise your home address to the wrong people

Don’t advertise your home address to the wrong people

address with anybody other than trusted friends, family and pertinent business contacts. One way to avoid giving out your home address is to purchase a private mailbox from a U.S. Post Office or private mailbox service, then use this address on forms, registrations, mailings, and so on.

We’ve used a pob address for years, but unfortunately some services and registrations will only accept street addresses. In such instances, we use the street address of the law firm where we maintain an office.

For people who don’t have such an alternate business or other address to use, but would like one as they’re constantly needing to provide a street address in forms, they can purchase a street address. Let’s look at a few of those services.

Purchasing a Street Address

There are services that let you use a street address that is really a pob or virtual mail center

There are street-address services that let you use a pob or virtual mail center

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) as well as various private mailbox companies, also provide “street” addresses (often where your mailbox is the suite number).

Below are a few services that offer street addresses.

Post Offices

At a U.S. Post Office, a post office box can also be used as a street address, but you’ll first need to fill out street addressing forms (available at your Post Office).

Advantages of using this street-addressing option is that USPS post office boxes are usually much less expensive than private mailbox services, Post Offices tend to be more permanent than private mail box services that can quickly move locations or go out of business, and the Post Office will also receive packages delivered by private carriers such as UPS and FedEx that are street addressed. Also, some Post Offices offer a “text to cell phone” message at no extra charge when a private-carrier shipment is received.  Fyi, not all Post Offices participate in the street-addressing program.

Disadvantages of using your U.S. post office box street-addressing service is that items must qualify for mail delivery (no shipments of alcohol, items over 70 pounds and other restrictions).

Private Mailbox Services

Most private mailbox services offer a street address and secure, 24-hour access to delivered mail and packages. They have additional services (some for a fee) that include mail forwarding and texting/emails when packages arrives.

Examples of private mailbox services:

The UPS Store - Personal Mailboxes



Virtual Mailbox Services

Virtual mail services forward scanned images of mail to you anywhere in the world

Virtual mail services electronically forward scanned images of your mail to you anywhere in the world

There are also a variety of virtual mailbox services that offer street addresses for your use.  The virtual mailbox service then receives all of your mail — they scan the envelopes and send those scans to you via email or other venue for your review. You decide which envelopes are opened (and its contents scanned and sent electronically to you), and which envelopes are to be thrown away. Such virtual mailbox services let you live anywhere in the world. Pricing can get costly (some of these services charge premium rates of $60 a month).

Examples of virtual mailbox services:


Earth Class Mail

Box 4 me

Tip #2: Don’t announce your location

It’s all the rage for people to automatically announce their location through social media sites

Geo-location services let you tell the world where you are -- but don't

Geo-location services let you tell the world where you are — you sure you want to do that?

(such as Twitter, Facebook and other online communities).  If someone has decided to break into your residence, or confront you, or confront somebody who’s still at your residence (while you’re at your “location”), or conduct some other not-in-your-best-interest activity, don’t help them by letting them know your location.

So when you see those prompts (“Click here so people can know your location!”) don’t click.  It’s as easy as that.

Tip #3: Don’t give out your phone number

Protecting your phone number is about more than just getting unwanted calls

Protecting your phone number is about more than just getting unwanted calls

It’s somewhat easy to find personal information from a phone number, such as a home address. It’s just as easy for you to protect that number, and your personal information associated with it, by using a virtual phone number.

Virtual Phone Numbers

A virtual number is a regular number (area code + number, such as 123-456-7789) that you can set up to ring through to your real number.  When someone calls that virtual number, the call is routed to your regular phone, you answer, and nobody knows the real number you’re answering from.

If someone attempts a trace on that number (to find the name/address it’s registered to), they won’t find it.  Well, unless you start broadcasting the virtual number on the Internet with your name attached.

Virtual numbers typically cost anywhere from $4.95 to $10.95 a month (if you get extra features, such as fax services, it’ll cost more). We use a virtual phone number in our business because it lets us easily keep records of incoming and outgoing phone numbers, the ability to re-route calls to different cell phone numbers as needed, block incoming phone numbers and other features.

Examples of virtual number services:



That’s it! Three tips to protect your confidential information in the new year.

Here’s to 2014, WritingPIs

Happy New Year gold letters

To go to book's Amazon page, click on cover

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover

Posted in Hiding Your Personal Information From Internet Searches, Nonfiction Books on Private Investigations, Protecting Your Personal Data Online | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off

Our Top 10 Private Investigations Posts in 2013

Posted by Writing PIs on December 21, 2013

At the end of each year, we like to post our readers’ favorite top 10 posts.  Below is our 2013 Top 10 list, starting with #10.

Top 10 Posts

#10 Private Detective Couples in Fiction and Real LifeMyrna Loy and William Powell 1

#9 Marketing the Private Investigations Business (We wrote this in 2009, but a lot of the tips still hold true)

#8 Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Awards Finalists 2013 (Great list of private eye genre books – check ‘em out!)

#7 No, Stephanie Plum Isn’t a Private Eye, She’s a Bounty Hunter

#6 What’s the Importance of a Crime Scene? crime scene tape

#5 Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye – The Violent Side of Process Services  (This is an excerpt from Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins’s book Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye)

#4 How to Conduct a Trash Hit – A Private Eye’s Dumpster Secrets (This post pops up on our top ten lists year after year)trash hit man in dumpster

#3 Best of 2012: Our 7 Favorite Private Investigator Sites (We’ll be compiling our favorite P.I. sites for 2013 soon, too)

#2 Can You Put a GPS on My Boyfriend’s Car? 

#1 Private vs. Public Investigators: What’s the Difference? (This post has been #1 in our top readers’ favorites for several years running!)

Thank you, readers, for dropping by our site!  Wishing you and yours a happy, safe holiday season, Writing PIs

The Writing PIs

The Writing PIs

Posted in 2013 Shamus Award, Attaching GPS's, Bounty Hunters, Importance of Crime Scenes, Public vs Private Investigators, Real-Life Private Investigator Stories | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

During the Holidays, People Turn to PIs to Help Find Missing Relatives

Posted by Writing PIs on December 19, 2013

border ornaments

The holidays are a time of celebrating with friends and family, a time when people often grow nostalgic about those with whom they’ve lost contact.  Sometimes people try to look up missing loved ones on the Internet (who aren’t always missing, by the way — sometimes their contact information fell through the cracks years ago), but there’s little or no information about their whereabouts online.

Online Detective Sites: Save Your Money

If you’ve been searching for contact information for a missing loved one on the Internet, and eye and magnifying glassyou’re only finding out-of-date addresses and phone numbers, resist the urge to pay an online detective site. A lot of their Internet ads promise to locate people for $19.95, $24.95, or more, but unless that person has stayed put, living in the same residence for at least two or more years, those Internet databases probably aren’t going to help you. Instead, you’ll end up paying good money for old, wrong or irrelevant information.  Unfortunately, if you have a question about the search results, there’s no live person to help you out.

Hiring a P.I. to Find Someone

Often, a qualified private investigator can locate a person efficiently and quickly.  Of course, there’s a lot of different variables that come into play when trying to locate a person — it can be more difficult to find someone, for example, if they have a very common name (e.g., Jane Smith), or there’s scant data about the individual, or the person has taken steps to not be found, etc.

One avenue of research P.I.s use to find people is through proprietary databases. But there’s more to their use than simply plugging a name or other identifier into them — an experienced P.I. is skilled at sifting through search results (sometimes reams of it), pinpointing relevant data, and often using it as a basis for further research.

What Are Proprietary Databases?

These are privately owned, password-protected online databases that are not available to the public. The proprietary databases we use cull their information from many different public records.  We once asked a customer rep if she knew exactly what public records her proprietary database pulled from, and she said, “There’s so many, it’d take me a day to tell you just some of them.”  One proprietary database advertises they pull from billions of public records.

Our proprietary database companies’ clientele includes private investigators, law enforcement, law firms, collection agencies and others who are professionally qualified. All clients of such databases, including the authors of this blog, have gone through background checks by these companies before they are allowed to access information in the databases.

Researching Public Records

Writing PIs: A Couple of Private Eyes Who Also WriteA qualified P.I. is also knowledgeable about searching public records, many of which are online, to locate someone. Below are a few examples of such public records:

County assessors’ sites.  These contain lists of owners of real property, along with information about the assessed value of that property

Privately owned cemeteries and mortuaries.  Here can be found burial permits, funeral service registers, funeral and memorial arrangements, obituaries, intermediate orders and perpetual care arrangements.

Court records. In reviewing these, a P.I. might find addresses, phone numbers, relatives’ names, places of employment, and more.

Additional means a P.I. might use to locate a person are through interviews, Internet research, investigating social media, surveillances and trash hits (searching garbage).

How a P.I. Handles Others’ Expectation of Privacy

If you contact a P.I. to help you find a missing relative, keep in mind that a professional investigator won’t simply hand over the found person’s private contact information to you.  Instead, after the P.I. locates the relative/loved one, the investigator will:

  • Inform the found person (through a phone call, letter or in person) that he/she has been hired to locate them by a client, and provide that person’s name.
  • Provide means for the found person to locate the client (through a phone number, address, email address, etc.).

These precautions are critical to protect others’ privacy. Unfortunately, there have been cases where criminals and others with questionable motives have hired P.I.s to find people.

Initial Screenings of Clientshat and magnifying glass on computer

Prior to accepting your case, a P.I. will likely conduct an initial screening to verify your identity, review your criminal background and check the legitimacy of your request.  You’d want the same privacy protection and options if someone was wanting to locate you.

It’s our experience that most “missing” family members are delighted to have been found by their loved ones.  And it’s rewarding to the investigator to have brought families together again.

Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins wrote about a particularly difficult “locate” in her article “Hired to Find a Long-Lost Love: A Case with a Surprise Ending.”

Happy Holidays, Writing PIs

To go to book's Amazon page, click on cover

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover

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Posted by Writing PIs on December 17, 2013

A part-memoir, part-reference nonfiction book based on the experiences of a real-life P.I.  To get your copy, click here.

To go to book's Amazon page, click on cover

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover

Audiences: researchers, writers, detective-fiction fans, armchair detectives and anyone curious about the real world of private investigators!

“This book does a great job bridging the gap between our country’s first private investigators to the state of the modern sleuth…a must-read for anyone remotely curious about what a private dick(ette?) really does.”
~ Mike Spencer, P.I., partner, Spencer Elrod Services, Inc.

“Loved this one. Great read, great author…a lot of basic tips and real experience.” ~ MCWriter

“One of my favorite parts of this book though is the Lady Sleuth Cocktail Appendix!! What a cool surprise!!” ~ L. Coker

“Secrets of a Real Life Female Private Eye is a very cool examination into this male-dominated profession.”  ~Alex Prosper

“Discover what the life of a female private eye really is about, without the fluff and sound effects. Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye may even help you develop a passion for becoming a private eye yourself!”
~ Jackeline Winters, M.Sc.

To read an excerpt, click here.

Happy Holidays, Writing PIs

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@writingpis ranked #11 in Top Private Investigators on Twitter 2013 by

Featured on - Top Private Investigators on Twitter 2013

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Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye: The Violent Side of Process Services

Posted by Writing PIs on October 27, 2013

A few years back, we were reading one of Sean Chercover’s novels featuring the P.I. Ray Dudgeon, where Dudgeon recalls a violent encounter with a process server.  It’s been a while since we read the book, so we can’t exactly recall the scene, but at the time we were both hit with how true it is that a task such as serving legal papers — which seems so basic, so benign — can also be deadly.


Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins wrote about some of the dangerous aspects of process services in her nonfiction book Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye.  Below is an excerpt.

The Violent Side of Process Services

A few years ago in my state, a local P.I. was murdered in the course of serving legal papers for a divorce.  Police have long known that domestic violence cases can be the most threatening — passions are heated, and too often drugs and alcohol are involved.  I once served divorce papers to a husband, accused of regularly beating his wife who managed to escape the house and file for divorce.  Minutes after I drove away, he fatally shot himself.  I didn’t know this until a week later when the lawyer, on whose behalf I served the papers, informed me.  How did I feel?  Horribly sad that a person took his life.  Even sadder for the children of the marriage.

I wish I could say that was the extent of violent episodes while my partner and I served legal papers, but it’s not.  Once a public government official got so furious, she shoved the papers back into my partner’s face. That official was reassigned to a basement office where she has little contact with the public.  Another time, a woman pounded her fists on my partner’s back as he walked away after serving her papers, and another time two guys tried to run my partner and I over with their truck after we served them papers.

And then there was the local process server who was attacked by a professional businessman who was furious at being served legal papers.  The process server had to spray the businessman with pepper spray to halt the attack, after which the process server ran away to safety.  He then sold his process service business, saying “No job is worth losing your life over.”

In this section are several stories of violent episodes I experienced while serving legal papers.  But first, let’s take a moment and talk about some of the myths of process service.  First, that the server is stoned like Seth Rogen in the film Pineapple Express.  Second, the psychology of the people who have been working hard, and sometimes rather creatively, to avoid being served legal papers.

We’ll start with the stoner-process server, who in reality would never make it in the business.

Pineapple Express: Dude, It’s Fiction, Not Reality

Pineapple Express: Dont'Serve Stoned, Dude

Pineapple Express: Dont’Serve Stoned, Dude

This movie featured a stoned process server — make that a very stoned process server — who runs into all kinds trouble while serving papers, including a run-in with a nasty mob character.  Funny as a story, but not realistic in real life.

Process servers need to be clear-headed and educated about the statutes that affect the service.  No way he or she could roll up to a house or business, their car and lungs filled with ganja smoke, and expect to fulfill a proper service of legal papers.  Here’s some reasons why:

  • The process server might be delivering papers to someone who’s actively avoiding service, so it is critical that the server is clear-headed and reading the signs to the person’s whereabouts.
  • Sometimes the person being served pretends they’re not that person, so the process server must be relying on research to accurately, and immediately, identify that person’s identity.
  • A business might think it’s protecting an employee by pretending the employee doesn’t work there, or that a manager isn’t legally required to accept the service on behalf of that employee, or someone at the business falsely recites some non-existing legality that forbids the process service from completing the service (we’ve even had lawyers do this — and guess what, they were making it up).  A process server must again rely on her research and know the laws affecting that type of service.

I’ve had all of the above scenarios occur while serving legal papers, which means it’s critical for me to be knowledgeable about state statutes regarding process service while quickly assimilating the signals and clues to the person’s identity and location.

Now let’s look at something less funny than a stoner trying to serve legal papers: Subjects turning violent when served legal papers.

When Subjects Go Ballistic

Confronting violent situations when serving legal papers isn’t always a random, out-of-the blue event.  Meaning, when the subject gets violent about being served legal papers, this rage has often been building over the days, weeks, months that they’ve been hiding, or perhaps attempting to stop the process, or maybe trying to outwit the process server.  All of which means the subject has grown increasingly anxious and angry.

Maybe they’re no longer driving their own car, or they’re crawling in and out of a back window every day to go to work instead of walking out their front door, or they’re no longer answering their phone or turning on certain lights at night in their home so it appears no one is home.  We knew a couple who left their and moved several hundred miles away, where they rented a guest house on someone else’s property.

The stress of hiding and avoiding service can affect spouses, significant others, children, bosses, coworkers, friends, even neighbors who are drawn into this web of deceit and avoidance.

In a recent article in the online magazine Psychology Today, Lisa Firestone, a clinical psychologist, states that violent behaviors can be triggered by frustration, anger or perceived humiliation.  Those are certainly responses I’ve witnessed in the course of serving legal papers.  Firestone states that often when people turn violent, they are attempting to retaliate, intimidate or exert control — motivations I’ve witnessed when violence erupts in the course of a service.

The following accounts describe violent incidences I’ve encountered or observed in the course of serving legal papers.

Stopping a Pit Bull Attack

Three years ago, I accompanied my business partner as he served legal papers to a residence.  I stayed in our vehicle so I could snap a photo of his serving the papers (having a photo of the actual service prevents people from claiming they were never served.) it’s good for people to see their actions are being monitored, and I can also quickly call nine-one-one if there’s a problem.

This particular morning, we identified one of the vehicles in the driveway as belonging to a twenty-one-year-old who lived with her parents, which indicated she was at home.  In our research, we knew the ages of her parents and their general physical description.

I watched my partner knock on the screen door of the home (the front door was wide open).  When a man fitting the description of the father came to the screen door, my partner first asked for so-and-so (the person to whom we were serving papers).

The man didn’t answer.  Instead he opened the screen door and yelled for his dog.  A barking pit bull appeared.  My partner thought quickly and jammed his foot against the screen door, blocking the dog’s exit.

Mind you, my partner loves dogs.  He’s trained German Shepherds as show dogs in the past.  We have two Rottweilers (but we never send them to an open door to greet strangers.  Although they’re well-behaved dogs, we’re aware their looks alone might scare people, so we put them into a separate room if strangers are coming to the house).

Because it is legal to serve adult members of a household where the subject of a process service resides, my partner announced he was serving papers to the father for [subject’s name], placed the papers on the porch and left.  Perhaps the man saw someone was in the car documenting his every move, so he had the good sense to not attempt further retaliation via his dog.

Several years back, in an episode of the former TV series Dog the Bounty Hunter, a person released an aggressive pit bull (dog on “Dog”), and Dog shot some kind of pellet (not ammunition) at the dog to scare it away.

We have a process server acquaintance who says he always carries a bag of doggie treats to win over dogs.  If that fails, he uses pepper spray.

-End of Excerpt-

To go to book's Amazon page, click on cover

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover

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Answering Writer’s Question: Suspicious Death and a Missing Will

Posted by Writing PIs on October 15, 2013

eye and magnifying glass

As private investigators, we’ve investigated several cases where there has been a suspicious transfer of estate property after a death.  As Shaun, one of the Guns, Gams & Gumshoes’s authors, has returned to the practice of law, his background ties into our answer as well.

WRITER’S QUESTION: My question is with regards to access to information. In my story, a woman has died under suspicious circumstances, and the police officer investigating the case has been unable to find a will on the premises or any indication of who the deceased’s lawyer might be, and the case is closed. Later, the officer hears some rumors about the will that leads him to believe he shouldn’t have closed the investigation. He wants to see the will and finally finds the name of the lawyer holding it, and discusses his concerns with him, but the lawyer refuses to share any information.

Unfortunately, the officer’s supervisor doesn’t want to re-open the case. So my questions are: If the officer convinced his supervisor to re-open the case, would the lawyer likely share the information or does the officer need a warrant from the court before the lawyer will release any information?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: The lawyer’s client is deceased, but the lawyer is still considered to represent the estate of the deceased. However, if the lawyer suspects that someone has committed a crime in order to take advantage of an inheritance, the lawyer is under an ethical obligation to facilitate the investigation. The lawyer would be inclined to cooperate with the officer in spite of what the supervising officer might want.
To go to book's Amazon page, click on cover

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover

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