The Virtual Investigator, VPI
Welcome to Covid19 and the after result. We are working remotely, now more than ever. And I am confident that it’s a good thing. Introducing… THE VIRTUAL PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR!
Q: What is a Virtual Private Investigator?
It is exactly what you think, an investigator that is available for you from anywhere in the country. That’s right, you can get the highest caliber Criminal Defense Investigator for your client without the exorbitant costs of a typical investigator. Whether it’s a Federal Defendant or a State Case, the Virtual Private Investigator specializes in Criminal Defense, Discovery Review, Case Analysis, and of course Witness Statements that are recorded and then summarized in writing. In addition to the Case Review, the Virtual Private Investigator can and will obtain missing records, omitted Body-Worn-Camera footage from law enforcement, and will review every second of every video. Let me repeat that, The Virtual Private Investigator will review every second of evidence video in your case as well as audio calls, jail calls, and every photo.
Did you know that many police officers and deputies frequently violate policy by turning off their body-cams? Most departments have a policy that mandates the body-cam to remain activated throughout the encounter. The Virtual Private Investigator will create a timeline of the video and document each significant moment for you, so that if you need quickly access and significant moment in the case, BOOM; it’s right there!
Q: What about witness statements?
Of course. That’s a huge part of your case. In the Criminal Defense system, witnesses will likely need to be re-interviewed on a recorded line. Quite possibly, missing witnesses will need to revealed, interviewed, and documented to support your case.
In the Personal Injury or Insurance Fraud world, the same holds true. Interviewing witnesses or potential witnesses is a key part of your case. Contacting area businesses or residents of the location in the case is also a crucial key to success. In the wake of Covid, it makes sense to put our Open Source Intelligence to work. The days of knocking on doors is not dead, but virtually, the Virtual Private Investigator can locate neighbors, area businesses, and employers, and can capture those statements via phone or virtual video. This saves the attorneys money!
Q: Can a Virtual Private Investigator retrieve court records?
Absolutely. That is primarily how it’s done these days. And court records and police records are becoming more available, more quickly. The Virtual Private Investigator has the ability to download zip files, view them independently, create that invaluable timeline, and to summarize all records and evidence. You need all the information. Let us get it to you.
Q: Essentially, you are searching for the truth, right?
Well, the Virtual Private Investigator searches for ALL the information. The truth can only be backed up by science, not detective work. The prosecutor and plaintiff have brought allegations supported by theory. A great investigator provides alternatives and newly discovered information. Thus, the Virtual Private Investigator will present a supportive hypothesis, so an attorney has more ammunition than their adversary.
Q: Do I really need an investigator?
Short answer, YES! Don’t be a hero. Have a professional team in place. The odds are already stacked against you in Criminal court. State Attorneys or US Attorneys have agents, police, a team of assistants, unlimited budgets, and access to people and gadgets that civilians do not. Arm yourself with a great business partner, an investigator. Many successful attorneys swear by them, H.T. Smith comes to mind. He considers his investigator a partner. He boasted on an interview with David Oscar Markus that “Barney,” his investigator found a missing witness nobody could find in a murder trial. That witness changed the dynamic of the case. Get yourself a Barney!
H.T. Smith is not only a brilliant litigator and legal scholar, he is one of the best lawyers in America. He was the first African American to become an Assistant Public Defender in Dade County, Florida. Having a great investigator certainly allowed him to capitalize upon his brilliance while his gumshoe gathered critical information for him.
One of the great attorneys of our lifetime, Alan Dershowitz explained the “Rules of the Justice Game,” which included Rule IV: “Almost all police lie about whether they violated the Constitution in order to convict guilty defendants,” and Rule V: “All prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges are aware of Rule IV.”
Dershowitz elaborated. The issue is that police officers know that they can lie in court without any consequence. He published this in 1982, and many brushed Dershowitz’s rules aside as hyperbole, but his rules and theories are accepted by criminal practitioners on both sides of the system.
The system is slanted for the police and the prosecutors with a battery of people pushing against the defense and the defendant. To go it alone is reckless. Now with the Virtual Private Investigator, you can have access to a support team without necessarily having them inside your office.
Q: Do celebrities hire investigators along with their big-time attorneys?
Celebrities are a target. It’s been said that they get breaks in the justice system, that rich people get away with more. I would argue that many times charges are brought against them that should never be brought, and if it were Joey Bag-o-Donuts, no charges would have been filed. One case comes to mind with a prominent athlete in one of the major four sports (I can’t say much more due to privilege) was charged with abuse. There was only conjecture, hearsay actually, but this particular prosecutor’s office charged the athlete and then celebrated the charge publicly. After this investigator’s case review and witness statements, the case was dropped. Hiring a defense attorney is extremely important. The difference could mean loss of income, public shaming, loss of endorsement money for celebrities, and possibly significant prison sentences. Smart attorneys use smart investigators. That’s smart practice.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” –Martin Luther King Jr.
Q: What about in Capital Cases? Can a Virtual Investigator help with Mitigation?
Absolutely, that is a great starting point. In Mitigation, we mitigate the person, not necessarily the crime. Perhaps all or most of Mitigation is done with conversations that lead to recorded interviews. Those interviews are crucial to the humanization of the accused.
Mitigation is the why behind or beneath the crime.
The Supreme Court has ruled that in deciding between the death penalty and life inside prison, the jury may consider ANY mitigating evidence a juror finds relevant. The jury must weigh the mitigating factors present by the defense against the aggravating factors presented by the prosecution.
The American Bar Association (ABA) published guidelines from the capital murder cases. The guidelines instruct the defense team to conduct a full investigation into the client’s entire life. In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled that a defense attorney who does not investigate the client’s entire life and childhood had provided inadequate and ineffective assistance of counsel.
So, as a defense attorney in Capital case, you don’t have much choice, but you can choose that right Mitigation Specialist. The Virtual Private Investigator is the starting point. We pull the history, the life-long history of the accused, and we work the life of the client from birth to present in great detail. Presenting detailed mitigation statements and reports are key to getting the better outcome by the jury.
But Mitigation can be done in any felony case. Character references, past employers, sports coaches, teachers, neighbors, extended family, school friends, and so many others can provide great details into the development of the accused. We are products of our environments. How we develop and grow is a factor in mitigation. The Virtual Private Investigator is also a Mitigation Specialist.
Most attorneys do not have the time or training from law school or after law school to thoroughly investigate the mitigating circumstances. Equally as important is creating a binder and a catalog of mitigation to be utilized and presented during the penalty phase of a trial. Attorneys either need to seek funding for mitigation, or they may use the State’s funding program (in Florida, the Justice Administrative Commission pays those expenses).
As a Mitigation Specialist, the Virtual Private Investigator is able to identify people, to locate them, and to thoroughly and compassionately interview them in a competent and respectful manner. The Virtual Private Investigator is skilled at recognizing the signs and indicators of mental health. Most importantly, is the ability to establish rapport with a variety of people from all walks of life. Death Penalty cases and the mitigation itself takes an extraordinary amount of time – the sooner you bring on a Mitigation Specialist and the Virtual Private Investigator, the more prepared your defense team will be to save your client’s life.
Do you know that Florida elects public defenders?
But it’s not the only state. Tennessee, Nebraska, and in San Francisco, CA public defenders are elected. This is a scholarly matter that has been debated, but it provides the realization that the independent criteria of being a public defender is very important. Elected Public Defenders have shown a unique ability to expose law enforcement issues and misconduct in their respective venues. Florida got it right. Do you really want your Republican Governor appointing the Public Defender?
In Florida, Public Defenders get investigators, and the system allows for Private Investigators to be appointed if the client is ‘Indigent for Costs.’ That means, if they cannot afford to pay for investigative services to make their case fair and adversarial, the Justice Administrative Commission, https://www.justiceadmin.org/, has approved vendors (investigators) on their list. My associate, Investigator Billy Lane of Prison Break Investigations, https://www.prisonbreakinvestigations.com/, handles our billing and assignment for these types of cases. Most of our work is done virtually. And of course, if we need to go to a crime-scene, we do. In our Virtual Private Investigator network, we are prepared to grab scene re-creation when needed. Just because we are virtual or out-of-state, we can respond to a location anywhere in the United States. Anywhere!
Q: How about Skip-Tracing and Locates?
A lot of skip tracing is understanding where and how to gather relevant information. Skip tracers will often conduct interviews with people who are close to their subject and engage in surveillance. They will also use the internet, searching for a subject’s online presence as well as using skip tracing software and extensive subscription-based databases not available to the general public. The Virtual Private Investigator is perfect for skip-tracing!
This list shows the type of information a skip tracer provides:
- Driver’s license/vehicle registration and title
- Credit reports
- Credit card applications
- Loan applications
- Job applications
- Phone number databases
- Utility bills
- Flight records
- Department store/customer loyalty card
- Consumer fraud
- Public tax information
- Public records databases
- Criminal background checks
- Courthouse records
- No known heirs estate
- People who are key witnesses in a lawsuit
- Person who owes debt
- Defendant’s absence
On the surface, skip tracing may seem like something you can do yourself but it will cost you time, money, and energy that could be saved by working with a professional. Free internet search services can occasionally be helpful, but the best services will cost you a fee. An experienced process server and skip tracer has access to high-tech methodologies, insider information, and cutting-edge surveillance techniques. Plus, they can call upon colleagues for assistance. Perhaps most importantly, a professional skip tracer will the while abide by federal, state, and local laws, such as trespass laws and privacy laws.
Q: What are the costs of a Virtual Private Investigator?
Now for everybody’s favorite answer, it depends.
In Criminal Defense, if the case is approved in Florida the client is Indigent for Costs, the rate is $40 per hour that will be paid from the State of Florida. No money out of the defense attorney’s pocket.
But let’s break down the costs to hire a Virtual Private Investigator.
When you need a case review for your case, reviewing discovery, videos, photos, statements, audio recordings, jail calls may take several days. Or, it might only take a few hours.
The hourly rate is $55/hour if you only need five hours or less; otherwise, pay the daily rate.
The Virtual Private Investigator daily rate is only $320.
If you need the investigator to work your case for a week, The Virtual Private Investigator rate has a better value of only $1400.
Q: What else do you get?
With every review, a detailed, well-written report. You’ll also get supporting evidence, witness statements, and access to the investigator when needed. Need testimony? Simply pay a small portion of our trial expenses, plus a reduced daily rate of $200/day.
As you know, only 8-10% of criminal court cases go to trial nowadays, but the Federal cases are even less. Only 3% of Federal cases go to trial. But, when you need the investigator, you’ve got him.
Q: What about mitigation rates?
The stakes are higher. The work is more sensitive and the time and attention require more skills, and a relentless skill-set to track down information and to build those catalogs for sentencing. The rates for Mitigation are $75/hour, or a daily rate that is $495. The weekly rate is $2200. If the case requires a month of mitigation, the retainer would be $6000 for the month.
Presenting the material in court is subjected to the $75/hour rate plus travel expense.