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Sneaking a Peek: Inappropriate surveillance techniques

Conducting surveillance is a juggling act between balancing the desire to obtain the client’s desired result with the risk of pressing the coverage in a way that might be construed as harassment – or even stalking. Knowing the legal limits, and knowing when to say when, is an essential skill of the professional legal investigator.

When surveillance is being carried out in support of litigation, it is especially important to not give the opponent ammunition to use against your client. A skilled operative can usually spot signs that someone is becoming aware of their presence. To continue following the individual despite the detection of such signs can lead to a confrontation – one that nowadays is typically preserved for posterity using a cell phone camera. This, of course, can lead to disastrous results. At the very least it virtually eliminates the likelihood that you can come back later to obtain the desired results. At most it can lead to a counterclaim for harassment, subsequently jeopardizing the case, as well as the reputation of both the attorney and the investigator.

There are numerous media accounts of investigators who went so far as to be arrested for stalking. A common denominator was the target of the surveillance repeatedly spotting the same individual following or watching them. The surveillance was continued despite the clear evidence that the operation had been compromised. Naturally, such an outcome almost always yields disastrous results for the investigator and his or her client.

Another area where issues can arise concerns the installation of GPS units by private investigators in order to conduct surveillance of a vehicle’s movement. In Texas, this is a criminal offense unless the vehicle owner approves of the installation. Nonetheless, an unprincipled investigator may have no qualms about illegally installing such a device, in order to electronically establish movement patterns and know where to go to acquire useful photographic evidence, without the inherent challenges of legal surveillance methods. Such a risky decision can lead to legal nightmares for everyone associated with the ethically challenged installer, in the event that it is somehow discovered.

The principled and professional investigators of ResultQuest® have thousands of hours of experience and handle every surveillance assignment with the utmost caution and discernment. Call us at 713/781-9040 when you need expert assistance in planning and implementing surveillance operations.