What does surveillance meant to you? Jim Nanos, publisher of PI Magazine, posed the question to me when I appeared on the PI Podcast. I had to think about it for a moment. Everyone knows what surveillance is, right? Surveillance is watching someone without them knowing they’re being watched. But at its core, professional surveillance is purposeful observation of subject. When professional investigators conduct surveillance, they are collecting evidence, not just wantonly lurking about hoping for some random sighting. Professional investigators have a plan.
Professional investigators always meet with the attorney client before beginning an investigation. The attorney explains the legal theory she’s working under, the evidence she has, and then describes the evidence she needs. In cases where the evidence involves surveillance, the investigator has to know what sort of evidence they will be gathering. In a custody case, the investigator may need evidence that puts a parent and child at a residence where there is drug activity. In this situation, a photograph of a vehicle, even one that clearly shows a license plate, is useless without a photograph or video of the child. There are a dozen reasons why someone’s car may be outside of a residence. A seasoned professional investigator knows that they have to capture images of the child at the residence. Anything less, and the attorney won’t prevail on her case.
I was working a custody case in the Northwoods awhile back. The case involved a parent who was not abiding by court’s custody and placement order. Specifically, one parent was allowing the child to go on hunting trips and carry a loaded gun through the woods. The child was eight at the time. The attorney needed photographs of the child carrying the firearm.
The attorney was able to tell me where the other parent hunted. Because this location was on public ground, I was able to place trail cameras deep in the Chequamegon National Forest and capture the images I needed. Communication between the attorney and the investigator is key to formulating a solid surveillance plan that will yield results.
Professional surveillance is purposeful surveillance. It’s calculated to produce credible, admissible evidence for use by the attorney client. Licensed Wisconsin Attorneys who need credible, admissible evidence are encouraged to contact me at JCook@NorthwoodsDiscovery.com to schedule a time to discuss your evidentiary needs.