Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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

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Posts Tagged ‘crime scenes and private investigators’

Two Article Series: Better Call Saul and Why PIs Investigate Crime Scenes

Posted by Writing PIs on May 3, 2015

fedora black and white

We have recently posted two different sets of articles at our other websites: Shaun Kaufman Law & Colleen Collins Books. One discusses a few legal nits in one of our favorite TV series “Better Call Saul”; the second offers updated course material that we taught a few years back to mystery writers.  Enjoy!

Better Call Saul

Would a Criminal Lawyer Really Do That?

Legal No-Nos in Dumpster Diving Scene

PIs Investigating Crime Scenes

Private Investigators and Crime Scene Investigations, Part I

Private Investigators and Crime Scene Investigations, Part II 

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

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.

Posted in Importance of Crime Scenes, Perspectives from a Criminal Defense Attorney | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on Two Article Series: Better Call Saul and Why PIs Investigate Crime Scenes

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.

Posted in Q&As | Tagged: , , | 23 Comments »

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