Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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

  • Writing a Sleuth?

    A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths

    "How to Write a Dick is the best work of its kind I’ve ever come across because it covers the whole spectrum in an entertaining style that will appeal to layman and lawmen alike."

    Available on Kindle

  • Copyright Notices

    All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content on this site (including images owned by Colleen Collins) requires specific, written authority.

    It has come to our attention that people are illegally copying and using the black and white private eye at a keyboard image that is used on our site. NOTE: This image is protected by copyright, property of Colleen Collins.

  • Writing PIs on Twitter

  • Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes

Posts Tagged ‘Anthony Pellicano’

#MondayBlogs Answering Writer’s Question: When Does a PI’s Activity Become Intimidation?

Posted by Writing PIs on March 20, 2015

bad guy

Today we respond to a writer’s question about PIs and intimidation.

Writer’s Question: When does surveillance, or any legitimate investigative activity, become intimidation?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: Many investigative activities (such as surveillance, knocking on doors and attempting interviews, service of subpoenas) can be done in such a manner to intimidate the target of an investigation. The legitimate activity can be so pronounced and intense that¬†the subject not only knows they’re being investigated, they fear the person who’s hired the investigator (or they fear the investigator him/herself). This is intimidation. An example of an intimidation is to leave a dead fish on the windshield of someone’s car with a rose in its mouth (which L.A. investigator Anthony Pellicano did to intimidate a newspaper reporter ). This¬†reporter was a witness before an official proceeding and Pellicano was charged for intimidating a witness with this not-so-subtle gift of seafood.

While the FBI agents in The¬†Sopranos could sit at the foot of Tony’s driveway and even FBI special agentchat with him on occasion (which is not covert surveillance), they could not attempt to run his car off the road or interfere with his business because those acts constitute intimidation (or police harassment).

Private investigators are regularly asked by bill collectors to visit debtors. This is a dicey area because federal credit collection practice laws permit contact but they don’t permit collectors to threaten with bodily injury or improper damage to the debtor’s reputation. Any time that a debtor can prove that a PI is guilty of these acts then the PI is personally liable, his firm his liable, and the collection agency is liable. Your fictional PI might be employed to knock on doors and collect money, discourage witnesses to testify in a court case, or take photographs of an individual and his/her home, car, workplace, etc. When these acts are done to intentionally frighten the witness and/or drive them from either testifying or bringing a claim in court, those actions are legally classified as intimidation.

Writing PIs

Posted in PIs and Intimidation, Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on #MondayBlogs Answering Writer’s Question: When Does a PI’s Activity Become Intimidation?

Answering Writers’ Questions: When Does a PI’s Surveillance Become Stalking?

Posted by Writing PIs on October 21, 2014

gavel and scales

Here’s a question that used to come up a lot in our workshops with writers.

WRITER’S QUESTION: At what point does a surveillance tail become stalking?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’ ANSWER: Let’s start with checking the ethics in one’s motive for conducting surveillance.¬† If the surveillance performed serves a purpose of obtaining information that PIs usually obtain, then courts will uphold rigorous surveillance. A few years ago, an individual in Michigan sued Henderson Investigations for a violation of the Michigan stalking law for actions the investigators took during an insurance surveillance. The PI firm fought the case all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court, which agreed with the PIs that “surveillance by private investigators contributes to the goal of obtaining information and amounts to conduct that serves a legitimate purpose.¬† Even though plaintiff observed the investigators following him more than once, this is not a violation of the stalking law.” In summary, the Michigan Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit outright and never allowed it to the stage where a trial was held.

Contrast this with a situation where a PI is hired to simply “put the muscle” on a witness or opponent in a lawsuit.¬† Repeated contact in the absence of an information-gathering purpose is a road sign indicating the on-ramp to stalking and illegal harassment. As an example of a¬†licensed PI crossing the line into illegal conduct, take the example of the “PI to the¬†stars” Anthony Pellicano, who was charged in Los Angeles County in 2005 with intimidating a Los Angeles Times reporter. ¬†In that case, the Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley announced the charges against Pellicano, in a complaint that alleged the private detective’s co-conspirator had threatened the reporter “by placing a dead fish with a rose in its mouth on the windshield of her car. He made a hole in the windshield with the intent to make it appear like a bullet hole.¬† He also placed a sign with the word ‘stop’ on the windshield.”

We’d call this not only stalking, but menacing, damage to property, harassment, battery, and abuse of a fish.

fish

Other Articles of Interest on This Topic

Anthony Pellicano Back in Court, Agrees to Deposition in Michael Ovitz Case (Hollywood Reporter, July 2014)

L.A. Judge Nixes Mike Ovitz’s Latest Bid in Pellicano Case; Anita Busch Case Heading for Trial (Deadline, April 2014)

Anita Busch Deposed As Lawsuits Against Michael Ovitz, Anthony Pellicano Revived (Wrap, August 2011)

fedora black and white

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority. Any violations of this reservation will result in legal action.

Posted in PIs and Lawyers, Private Eyes in the News, Q&As | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on Answering Writers’ Questions: When Does a PI’s Surveillance Become Stalking?

PIs as Criminals: Great in Fiction, Bad in Real Life

Posted by Writing PIs on November 18, 2012


“I Want You to Put Some Muscle on This Guy”

Sounds like a line out of a bad noir movie, but we’ve actually had someone request that. In this case, the man wanted us to put some muscle on a guy who’d stolen his Ferrari. ¬†Yes, Ferrari. We explained that unlike Tony Soprano, we don’t do muscle. ¬†The guy then asked if we could locate the stolen Ferrari. ¬†That we can do, and did

We’ve also been asked multiple times to attach GPS devices on vehicles the requestor doesn’t own to downloading listening software on people’s cell phones. After explaining that we do not conduct such illegal activities, we explain to callers that if they decide to do such criminal acts on their own, they’ll be facing felony charges if caught.

Ads to Help People Wiretap

It’s interesting how many ads are out there (magazines, Internet) for cellphone software that a buyer can then download on someone’s cell phone and listen to (and track) all their conversations.¬† We’ve had callers say, “But they claim their product is legal in the ads!”¬† No, they don’t claim their product is legal, but they sure make it sound that way.

Real-Life PIs Who Go Bad

Although all the private investigators we know play by the legal rules, there are the few who drift over to the dark side. ¬†Some drift in a big, bad way like Anthony Pellicano, the former high-profile Los Angeles PI who’s now serving time in a federal prison for illegal possession of explosives, firearms and homemade grenades, unlawful wiretapping and racketeering.

Then there’s former Concord, California, private investigator Christopher Butler who’s spending 8 years in a federal prison for committing a string of felonies that included the theft and sale of drugs from the Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team and setting up “dirty DUI” schemes where men going through contentious divorces were set up for drunk driving arrests.

Bad PIs Are Good in Fiction

When it comes to fiction, however, bad is good. ¬†It bumps up the stakes and tension if a fictional sleuth, knowing he/she is committing a felony, does it anyway.¬† They illegally track with a GPS, knowing the consequences if they get caught, but they’re doing it for a compelling reason (to save a child, for example).¬† Adds complexity and tension to the story, doesn’t it?¬† Or they go into the gray zone and purchase that illegal cell phone software as a last means to track a killer.¬† As a writer, knowing what’s legal or not for your protagonist sleuth helps you crank up the stakes.¬† Plus it adds plausibility.

Mark Your Calendars: The Zen Man will be free November 25-27!

Speaking of fictional PIs, one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’ novel, The Zen Man, which features a man-and-woman PI team, will be free November 25 – 27, 2012. ¬†Yeah, one of them’s a good PI who does some bad things.

Semifinalist Best Indie Books of 2012, The Kindle Book Reviews

“A brilliant mystery novel…I eagerly await the return of the Zen Man.”
~Becky Sherriff, The Kindle Book Review

“What I didn’t expect were the touches of romantic language, as delicate and erotic as a glance by Humphrey Bogart from under his hat. I also didn’t expect the humorous touches in what is essentially one man’s life-or-death fight to save his soul, his business and the love of his life.”
~Bonnie Ramthun, multi-published mystery and YA author

“Move over Sam Spade, Nick and Nora; make room for a Denver who-dun-it, Colleen Collins‚Äôs The Zen Man. Brilliant and fast-paced writing. I couldn‚Äôt put it down.”
~ Donnell Ann Bell,‚Ä® Award-Winning Author of The Past Came Hunting

Posted in PI Topics, PIs and Listening Devices, Private Eyes in the News, Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on PIs as Criminals: Great in Fiction, Bad in Real Life

How to Become a Private Investigator

Posted by Writing PIs on December 29, 2010

Updated August 19, 2012

Because we get asked this question a lot (“How can I become a PI?”), we thought we’d cover some general guidelines, and bust a few myths.

Forget Sam Spade

Private investigators (PIs) aren’t like what you see in films or read about in books–we’re not living the noir life (racing cars, busting heads, carrying lead). ¬†We don’t wear trench coats unless it’s raining outside and we happen to own such a coat. ¬†We don’t drink on the job because that’s a sure-fire way to mess up an investigation and ruin our reputation (and reputation in this business is critical). We don’t break the law (look up “Anthony Pellicano” on Google, see how his illegal activities paid off).

Now for general guidelines. ¬†Below we briefly discuss what kind of backgrounds PIs come from, some different kinds of investigative work, salaries, study courses, and licensing. ¬†If you’re really interested in becoming a PI, it’d be a good idea to contact your state professional private investigator association and ask to speak to a real-life PI–maybe invite him/her out to lunch and ask your questions.

Backgrounds for Becoming a PI

PIs come from various backgrounds, many from law enforcement.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011 Edition:

Private detectives and investigators typically have previous experience in other occupations. Some have worked in other occupations for insurance or collections companies, in the private security industry, or as paralegals. Many investigators enter the field after serving in law enforcement, the military, government auditing and investigative positions, or Federal intelligence jobs. Former law enforcement officers, military investigators, and government agents, who frequently are able to retire after 25 years of service, often become private detectives or investigators in a second career. Others enter from jobs in finance, accounting, commercial credit, investigative reporting, insurance, and law. These individuals often can apply their previous work experience in a related investigative specialty.

In our experience, we’ve met many retired law enforcement who have second careers as PIs. ¬†We know people who used their backgrounds in genealogy and communications to enter the investigations field–even a former pet walker who now specializes in finding lost pets. ¬†When we started our agency, one of us was retired trial attorney, and that background opened doors to our starting a legal investigations business (since then, he’s returned to the practice of law, so we’re now a law firm and investigations agency).

PIs Do Different Kinds of Work

PIs might also do different kinds of work.  For example, many PIs do process service, which is the personal delivery of summons,

PIs specialize in different kinds of investigative work, from computer forensics to pet detectives

subpoenas¬†and other legal documents to parties in a legal case. ¬†Some PIs might specialize in locating people (skip tracing), with some pinpointing a specific type of person (tracing debtors, for example). ¬†Today’s technical world offers other specializations, such as¬†Internet investigations or technical surveillance countermeasures (locating/dismantling unwanted forms of electronic surveillance, such as in bugged vehicles or offices).

PI Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2011 the median hourly wage for U.S. private investigators is $21.01, and the the annual salary is $43, 710. ¬†The state with the highest employment level of private investigators is New York–those PIs earn a median hourly wage of $24.69, and a median annual salary of $51, 360. ¬†The top-paying state for private investigators is Washington–those PIs earn a median hourly salary of $31.47, and a median annual salary of $65,460.00

Private Investigation Study Courses

There is no set course of education to become a private investigator, although there are different study programs–some offered by qualified PIs–that train people interested in pursuing work in the private investigations field. ¬†The below sites offer more information on private investigation study programs:

How to Become a Private Investigator

Detective Training Institute

Global School of Investigation

Private Investigator Academy of the Rockies

Private Investigator Licensing

Most states require PIs to be licensed (currently, 5 states do not require licensing).  Different states have different licensing requirements, from the minimum age (typically 18), to years of investigative (or related) experience, to hours of accredited course study.  Most licensing requirements stipulate a person must not have a felony on their record.

PI Magazine offers links to all states and their licensing requirements: State Licensing Requirements

Have a great week, Writing PIs

Posted in How to Become a PI | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: