Privacy, surveillance & civil litigation: a Massachusetts guide for private investigators

The Massachusetts Bar Association hosts a good summary of privacy laws as they apply to video surveillance in Massachusetts civil litigation, including insurance cases. One of the leading cases in Mass. is DiGirolamo v. D.P. Anderson & Associates, Inc., The court wrote that investigators may generally observe, or photograph a person in public places. A gray area arises when a person enters the privacy of their own home. The court looked at 4 scenarios as to whether a private investigator violates a person's statutory right to privacy:

~ the investigator looks through a window into an apartment with the naked eye;

~ the investigator looks with the naked eye when a person walks out onto a balcony;

~ the investigator photographs, or looks at the person on a balcony with enhanced vision;

~ the investigator photographs or looks at a person inside the home with enhanced vision.
 
The Mass. court concluded that only the fourth scenario would constitute an unreasonable and substantial interference with the plaintiff’s right to privacy.

The court adopted the United States Supreme Court’s Fourth Amendment analysis from Oliver v. United States. It also quoted a Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ case United States v. Taborda: “Observation of objects and activities inside a person’s home by unenhanced vision from a location where the observer may properly be does not impair a legitimate expectation of privacy. However, any enhanced viewing of the interior of a home does impair a legitimate expectation of privacy.”

Written by lawyers Joseph M. Desmond & David Viens, this article has some good information on Massachusetts state laws applicable to video surveillance, audio recordings, pretext interviews and pretrial discovery.

Nardizzi interviewed by The Cheat Sheet on "Love and Money: 6 Signs of Financial Abuse You Shouldn’t Ignore"

The Cheat Sheet checked in with John Nardizzi on Love and Money and signs of financial fraud and abuse:

'Private investigator John Nardizzi, founder of Nardizzi & Associates, said vulnerable, trusting people are highly susceptible to falling prey to this behavior. “Isolation is a key sign: a con man (or woman) slides into the orbit of someone’s life and suddenly is in charge of that person’s finances. Elderly people who live alone and do not have family around are vulnerable…"'


Predatory publishers list

A list of questionable, scholarly, open-access publishers, also known as “predatory publishers” is listed here: www.scholarlyoa.com is run by Mr. Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at Auraria Library, University of Colorado Denver.

The list this year includes 923 publishers, an increase of 230 over last year. Numerous “expert” witnesses have taken left hooks and straight jabs to their reputations for publishing in these kinds of journals, which often have no peer review, no identifiable editor. They do, however, often feature frequent use of the word “International”.

Fantastic Beasts of the Background Check World: the "national criminal search"


Every investigator gets phone calls like this. The tone excited, the tenor demanding. How can you, sir, charge so much money for a background check when other firms offer "national criminal record checks" for $24.95?

griffin (1)
Our response is: Do you want to buy a griffin? A hippogriff (half-horse, half-eagle, 100% fantasy)? Time to review Fantastic Beasts of the background check world.

The national criminal check is a myth. What constitutes a “national criminal check” or “nationwide employment criminal background” as the product is often described? Usually, the firm offering this search is checking a compilation of conviction data--people who actually were sentenced to prison. However, only a very small percentage of people charged with crimes ever do any prison time. National offender databases are misleading: they miss charges that have been pled out, dismissed, not prosecuted (nolle prosequi, the legal term of art meaning the prosecutor is unwilling for some reason to pursue the case).

How do you actually check for Criminal Records?

Everyone is familiar with scenes from movies where a law enforcement agent runs a quick database check and gets an entire criminal history in seconds. In real life, things tend to be a bit more convoluted.

One database used by law enforcement is the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and it is
typically limited only to law enforcement. While the closest thing to a national criminal records database, even NCIC data is riddled with gaps, with as many as 50% of all criminal cases failing to hit the database. So how do you proceed to check a person for crimes committed across 50 states in the USA?

Convictions data is a start but we always go back to the primary sources of criminal records: the state court system. On the state side, this means searching a higher court (Superior Court) that handles major crimes in a particular county, as well as lower courts with more limited jurisdiction. These courts are called district courts or municipal courts. Don’t make the mistake of skipping this step as district courts can hear cases involving serious criminal matters; for example in Massachusetts, some felony cases are found in district court. And access to the dockets still remains mixed: Massachusetts still keeps criminal records off the internet; you need to look at the index in the court.

And on the federal side, you will be checking for criminal cases in the national PACER system.

So just beware when you are conducting a criminal background check for employment or any other purpose: to do it right, the investigator may need to leave the office and review records ((paper or database) at the courthouse. Be certain that you are buying more than the fantastic beast of a "national criminal check" which is usually just convictions data.

Trying to find an old Boston, Suffolk County MA court case?

If you have a case number from a Boston, Suffolk County case but are not sure where it might be found, the first set of numbers contains a trial court code. Check this site to locate the correct district court that heard the case. For example, a case number 8905 - CR-1091 would be filed in the year 1989, in courthouse “05” which corresponds to East Boston.

After reviewing your case, stop over at Santarpios for the best Italian thin crust pizza.
santarpios
Takeout orders come right from the kitchen door on Chelsea St. Look for the tomato cans.

Other Massachusetts Superior, District, Probate & Juvenile Courts are listed here too, but Boston cases cause the most confusion because of the consolidation of the district courts under the Boston Municipal Court system. BMC Central covers downtown Boston & Beacon Hill.

Reading faces, detecting lies? Not quite...

Paul Ekman's decades of research are the backbone of the Facial Action Coding System. Ekman's books and videos explain that reading facial expressions does not automatically reveal a liar. Microexpressions may be a sign of subterranean emotions, but there is no expression that automatically signals deception.

NLP eye movement & lie detecting: Everything you know is wrong

A surefire way to detect a liar is to watch the eyes move, right? You have seen this claim in books, movies, cable TV shows, blogs, etc. When someone looks up and to the left , they are accessing a visual memory. Lee Child even has Jack Reacher doing this in one of his books.

One problem: research shows it doesn't work. Even the
FBI has come around to this way of thinking.

“Twenty-three out of 24 peer-reviewed studies published in scientific journals reporting ex-periments on eye behavior as an indicator of lying have rejected this hypothesis.”

Last man/woman standing in writing contest

John Nardizzi’s “Chasing the Ghost” wins Pursuit Magazine Criminal Defense writing contest.

#BahamasLeaks


Background Check Myths - The National Criminal Check

Every investigator gets phone calls from this person. The tone excited, the tenor demanding. How can you, dear sir, charge so much when other firms offer "national criminal record checks" for $24.95?

Time to review Fantastic Beasts of Background Myths: what constitutes a “national criminal check” or “nationwide criminal background check” as the product is often described.

The national criminal check is the hippogriff of the industry, a complete myth. Usually, the firm offering this search is checking a compilation of conviction data--people who actually were sentenced to prison. However, only a very small percentage of people charged with crimes ever do any prison time. National offender databases are misleading: they miss charges that have been pled out, dismissed, not prosecuted (Nolle prosequ, the legal term of art meaning the prosecutor is unwilling to pursue the case).

Everyone is familiar with scenes from movies where a law enforcement agent runs a quick database check and gets an entire criminal history in seconds. In real life, things tend to be a bit more convoluted.

One database used by law enforcement is the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and it is typically limited only to law enforcement. And even NCIC data is riddled with gaps, with as many as 50% of all criminal cases failing to hit the database. So how do you proceed to check a person for crimes committed across 50 states in the USA?

Convictions data is a start but we always go back to the primary sources of criminal records: the state court system. On the state side, this means searching a higher court (Superior Court) that handles major crimes in a particular county, as well as lower courts with more limited jurisdiction. These courts are called district courts or municipal courts. Don’t make the mistake of skipping this step as district courts can hear cases involving serious criminal matters; for example in Massachusetts, some felony cases are found in district court.

And on the federal side, you will be checking for criminal cases in the national PACER system.

So just beware when you are scanning someone for a criminal history: to do it right, the investigator will probably need to leave the office and pull some paper records. A thorough investigation will take more than just a database search.