Category Archives: Investigative Tools

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How hard is it to get a warrant?

cell phone recordConnecticut claims it is too hard to get a warrant to obtain the cell phone records. In Connecticut-the police can obtain the cell phone records of “anybody” with an “ex parte  application. Here is the article from “a public defender”.

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Don’t use cellular phone to track without a warrant

cell phone track“Police violated a burglary suspect’s state constitutional right to privacy when they located him using cellphone tracking information without first obtaining a warrant, a New Jersey appeals court ruled on Friday.

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We now conduct searches to help prevent this

DENVER - APRIL 02:  (L-R) Prospective home buy...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife
by Mark Spencer


Editors Note: This article was originally published on November 10, 1997.

This four-part series focuses on the personal safety issues facing the real estate professional as illustrated by the disturbing experiences and subsequent coping responses of two Realtors who each were viciously attacked while showing homes to what they assumed were prospective buyers. One stayed in the real estate business, determined to educate other Realtors how to protect themselves from similar crimes. The other left the profession, too traumatized by her ordeal to return. Also included in Mark Spencer’s informative series are life-saving tips for how Realtors — who assume considerable risk every day — can avoid becoming the next tragic statistic. Parts 1-4 will run in installments today through Thursday this week.

Neither woman ever thought it could happen. But it did.

Both of them were attacked while showing houses to a prospective buyer. Now, both of these women want to spread the word that it can happen to any real estate agent — anytime, anywhere — and that agents who take a few preventive measures now will reduce the likelihood of becoming the victim of an assault.

The changes these two Realtors made in their lives will be examined in this four-part series, and their ideas for improving safety in the profession will be offered alongside safety guidelines from professional organizations and associations. But the overriding message is simple: Realtors are vulnerable. They travel alone to vacant properties with strangers. Men are robbed; women are robbed and sometimes raped. And both sexes are murdered. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), about 70 real estate agents were killed on the job between 1980 and 1992, the last year for which statistics are available.

“Seven-zero?” asks Jim Massey in Decatur, Ill. He sadly remembers the 30-year-old single mother who worked in his real estate office. She was slain in 1994. The sheriff’s office told Massey they have a suspect in the case, but so far, no arrest has been made. Charlotte Fiminano will also be included in the NIOSH statistics. Fiminano was strangled and shot in the head in September 1996 in an upscale area outside Bethlehem, Pa. Police say they have determined whether Fiminano’s killer was a stranger or an acquaintance, but that information has not yet been released to the public.

In recent years, Realtors have become increasingly wary about holding open houses. It’s a valid concern, considering that 71 percent of home sales come from sources other than referrals and friends — meaning strangers.

Perhaps most alarming is that statistics aren’t available for the attacks which didn’t result in death. But efforts to collect that information would be futile, Malone says; she believes a large number of incidents are never reported because victims fear embarrassment or worse, retaliation.

“Unfortunately, we’re dumb,” Malone says. “We all end up forgetting about the things that happen … I would never have thought anything like that could happen to me. It can happen.”

Part 2 of the series, Realtor Joan Malone recounts her terrifying ordeal.

To read the rest of the article, please visit Realty Times

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Technology and the Cheating Spouse

From the Washington Post.-Cheating?  Watch that e-trail.

By Monica Hesse

How has technology affected cheating spouses? According to this article,

In an age of iPhones, TMZ and standard-issue personal GPS devices, is technology killing the affair?

Here’s a potentially apocryphal anecdote, submitted via e-mail to game forum The e-mailer, a soldier, came back from Iraq and settled down to play some Nintendo Wii. He found an unfamiliar avatar lurking in his console. It was the Mii created by his wife’s lover.

Schadenfreude-by-Google, as related in a column written by a London attorney: His client was apparently tooling around on the Google Maps Street View option and looked up a friend’s house. Parked outside was her husband’s Range Rover, identifiable by its custom rims. He was supposed to be on a business trip.

We’re not talking the end of cheating altogether. There will forever be opportunities for hook-ups in bars or incidents of ex-sex. The social scientists who research infidelity say that the Internet is good for adultery. Sites such as cheating portal have made it easier than ever to find some sleazy person whose interests include long walks on the beach and home-wrecking.

Read the full article here

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Is a Warrant required for a GPS Unit Installation

GPS receivers from Trimble, Garmin und Leica
Image via Wikipedia

From MSNBC, below are two articles on GPS installations.

First, do police need a warrant to install GPS?

At the heart of the matter is whether tracking someone with a global-positioning system device constitutes a search, which is covered by the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. A Wisconsin court of appeals ruled last week that no, it doesn’t. On Tuesday, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that yes, it does.

“It brings us back to the fundamental question as to whether GPS tracking is synonymous with visual surveillance,” says Hillary Farber, a professor of law and criminal justice at Northeastern University’s College of Criminal Justice in Boston. “This is an evolving area of law…. It’s a hot issue.”

The full article is here

Second, the use of GPS in domestic cases

When Lovers’ Quarrels Go Hi-Tech

As surveillance technology, such as GPS tracking devices and video cameras, has evolved to become smaller and cheaper, more and more people like Michelle are turning to spy gadgetry to not just monitor their property, but the people in their lives.

But, experts warn that it’s easy to cross the line. Stalking is illegal, and depending on your state, you could find yourself running afoul of the law without even knowing it.

The full article is here

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GPS and the investigator

Here is a story provided by Jim Mabry. Just another day on the job…Hingham, Mass.


POLICE NEWS: Private investigator eyed in bomb scare

Thu Apr 16, 2009, 03:02 PM EDT

Hingham –  

The private investigator, who police believe, is responsible for installing a GPS unit under a car that public safety officials thought was a bomb could face felony charges and have to cover the cost of a 4- hour investigation.

Police spokesman, Lt. Michael Peraino, said a concerned resident in the apartments at One Station Street called police at 5:10 p.m. on Tuesday (April 14) after looking out his window and seeing a man pull up in a car with Florida plates. The witnesses reported the man got out of his car and went over to a green Honda that was parked in the apartment complex’s parking lot. He then got on the ground and went underneath the Honda. The witness said he looked like he was putting something under the car.

Police officers arrived and saw a device under the Honda but could not identify it. The owner of the car, who is from Brazil, was out of town but due back that night, police said. The owner of the Honda lives at the complex and has been having a child custody dispute with his wife.

“The Hingham Fire Department was dispatched to the scene but also could not identify the device. The State Police Bomb Squad was called and the MBTA was notified to stop all Greenbush trains, police said.

The area was evacuated. The bomb squad used a robotic camera to take a look at the device but could not identify it. The bomb squad then used at water canon that fires water at high pressure to knock the device off the car. The device turned out to a GPS unit.

The private investigator could be charged with possession of a hoax device and be responsible for paying the cost of tying up police and fire departments and stopping the train.

For the full story, click here

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Lecture on “Selling the Law-The Business of Public Access to Court Records

I have also posted this at CIR Blog

The lecture below is a very important discourse to those of us involved in Court Records. Should large companies like Lexis Nexus (Choicepoint) be able to control “public records of citizens” and charge us to access those records?  Be sure to click on the lecture link or the download. This link is provided by the Center for Information Technology Policy

Stephen Schultze and Shubham Mukherjee – Selling the Law: The Business of Public Access to Court Records

Title: Selling the Law: The Business of Public Access to Court Records
When: Thursday, February 5, 2009 – 4:30 PM
Where: Sherrerd Hall, Room 101

Selling the Law Slide Show

As government documents are increasingly digitized and put online, two orthogonal approaches to distributing these documents have developed. Under one approach, the documents are made easily and freely accessible. In others, the government retains or introduces barriers to access that are inspired by traditional physical access. When these barriers are fee-based, the government can inadvertently create downstream monopolies or architectures of control over public information. This problem is especially severe in the case of federal district court documents, which are available only via an outdated, fee-based, court-run system or from expensive aggregators like Lexis or Westlaw. Indeed, evidence indicates that the courts are using public access fees to subsidize other activities. If we are to be a nation of laws, citizens must have access to the law. The upfront cost of making court documents freely available is far outweighed by the long-term benefits to society. Widespread digitization combined with Internet connectivity has placed these benefits within reach. The courts must now address the task of revamping outmoded policies and funding structures in order to align their practice with this reality.

Video of Schultze and Mukherjee Lecture

Stephen Schultze is a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. He studies open government, media policy, and telecommunications law. He blogs at

Shubham Mukherjee is in his third year at Harvard Law School and a clinical member of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. His research interests include intellectual property, Internet law, and government transparency.

Princeton UniversitySchool of Engineering and Applied ScienceWoodrow Wilson School

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