Private investigation work touches many different aspects of the law. Private investigators and police officers encounter situations related to legal issues such as personal rights, privacy laws, marital disputes, electronic surveillance, and many more. Having a clear understanding of the laws and regulations that govern different types of investigations will help you operate within the constraints of the law and keep yourself out of trouble
In addition, many clients work directly with attorneys and lawyers in regard to process serving, background checks, surveillance and many other jobs. Therefore, it is important for private investigators to have a good working knowledge of the law.
American Bar Association (ABA) for Attorneys and Legal Professionals
The American Bar Association (ABA) is a voluntary bar association of lawyers, attorneys and law students. The nationwide association is not specific to any jurisdiction in the United States. The organization’s official mission is “To serve equally our members, our profession and the public by defending liberty and delivering justice as the national representative of the legal profession.” The American Bar Association’s most important activities are involved with the setting of academic standards for law schools, and the formulation of model ethical codes related to the legal and law profession. As of this writing, the ABA has 410,000 members and has been growing steadily over the years. The American Bar Association’s national headquarters are located in Chicago, Illinois. The ABA also maintains a branch office in Washington, D.C. The Association publishes a monthly general magazine circulated to all of its members. The publication is called the American Bar Association Journal. It has been published since 1984 and was formerly known as the American Bar Association Journal, 1915-1983).
In general, the association is a great resource for learning about the law and legal matters. Larger investigative agencies may have investigators on staff that are also attorneys and lawyers. In that situation, it would be helpful for the agency to become a member of the organization to take advantage of its resources. This will also help speed the process of obtaining information when needed. For more information on the bar:
- Visit the American Bar Association’s official website. The website provides information on various ABA groups, provides resources for lawyers, provides the latest new relevant to the legal industry and has information on careers.
- Visit the ABA Journal website to get information on the latest legal headlines, sample articles, blogs and podcasts. The site is a great resource for learning about the law.
- Legal Forms – U.S. Legal Forms, Inc. is the leading publisher of state-specific legal forms. Whether you are an attorney, small business or consumer, this is the best place to find the law and business forms you need.
Attorneys, Lawyers and Law Firms
An attorney, or lawyer, is a professional person authorized to practice law, conduct lawsuits, and give legal advice and/or represent others in legal matters or proceedings. A lawyer, according to Black’s Law Dictionary, is “a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person licensed to practice law.”
Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain stability, and deliver justice.
Working as a lawyer or attorney involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who retain (i.e., hire) lawyers to perform legal services.
The role of the lawyer or attorney varies significantly across legal jurisdictions.
Private detectives often form relationships with local attorneys as a source of business. Private detectives often perform legwork such as tracking down and interviewing witnesses, service of process, and uncovering information and data. Following are miscellaneous law and legal resources for private detectives and police officers:
Attorney Finder: Legal Directory – Attorney Finder helps you locate lawyers nationwide for help with your legal problems. The directory is organized by geographic area and by field of practice. Whether you’ve just moved to a new city or simply need help finding the right person, we can assist you. (This site is no longer available).
- Attorney Pages – The Attorney Pages website helps you locate an attorney.
- DWI Minnesota – Minnesota based DWI attorney and DUI lawyer specializes in Criminal Defense cases. Recognized as a leader in Minnesota DWI and DUI defense.
- Lawyers.com – Search for an attorney, get answers to your legal questions and download do-it-yourself legal forms.
If you need an expert to interview or testify in your case, these sites make it easy to connect with the right person:
- Expert Pages – Resource for hiring expert witnesses for legal cases.
- Expert4Law – On-Line Referral Service for legal experts.
List of Criminal Competencies and Corresponding Court Cases
The following list of criminal competencies is a listing of the various types of legal competencies relevant to the defendant in criminal law in the United States. In the United States, the law has competency issues since a state may not subject an individual who is incompetent to stand trial on criminal charges. By insisting on this requirement, the law acts on the assumption that society recognizes only the actions of an individual. It is important for private investigators to understand these, as they may affect the outcome of the case.
Following is a list of the most relevant competencies that must be evaluated (if a question of incompetency is raised) to proceed. The list includes the name and the corresponding court case (or cases). These are in no particular order.
Competency to Consent to a Search or Seizure
Mapp versus Ohio
Katz vs. United States
Florida vs. Rodriguez
Competency to Stand Trial
Dusky vs. United States
Panetti vs. Quarterman
Competency to Waive Right to Competency
United States versus Morin
Competency to Consent to a Search or Seizure
Competency to Confess
Brown vs. Mississippi
Miranda vs. Arizona
Colorado vs. Connelly
Competency to Plead Guilty
Seiling vs. Eyman
Godinez vs. Moran
Godinez, Warden vs. Moran
Competency to Waive the Right to Counsel
Godinez vs. Moran, McKaskle vs. Wiggins, Faretta vs. California
Competency to Refuse an Insanity Defense
Whalem vs. United States, Frendak vs. United States
Competency to Testify
Legal Requirements for Testimonial Competence
Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 601
Assessment of Witness Credibility
Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 508
Competency to Be Sentenced and Executed
Saddler vs. United States
Competency at the Sentencing Proceedings
Chavez vs. United States
Competency to Be Imprisoned or Executed
Ford vs. Wainwright, Penry vs. Lynaugh
Competency to Refuse Treatment
Perry vs. Louisiana
General Legal Research Tools
If you’re just beginning to start researching legal topics, here is a helpful site, Cornell’s Legal Information Institute. The site provide brief summaries of law topics with links to key primary source material, other Internet resources, and useful off net references. They can be accessed through: the following set of broad topic categories (scroll down), through an alphabetical listing of topics, and through a searchable index.
Many private investigators, legal professionals and even journalists encounter situations where they need to tape a witness statement or record audio. In such situations, the website Can We Tape serves as a practical guide to taping phone calls and in-person conversations in the United States.
FindLaw is the highest-trafficked legal Web site, providing the most comprehensive set of legal resources on the Internet for legal professionals, businesses, students and individuals. These resources include Web search utilities, cases and codes, legal news, an online career center, and community-oriented tools, such as a secure document management utility, mailing lists, message boards and free e-mail.
Law Engine provides resources on a variety of law topics such as courts, cases, federal codes and rules, law libraries and legal products and services.
Law Guru was originally started in 1996 by a Los Angeles law firm and has evolved into one of the most popular legal web sites on the Internet. It is offered as a free service to the entire Internet Community.
LawInfo.com is recognized nationwide as a leader within the legal community, providing public access to pre-qualified, pre-screened attorneys, and to free legal resources.
Lawyers.com allows you to search for and hire an attorney in your local area. Search by city and state or by law specialty.
LegalZoom.com is a site that we do not recommend. Their services are overpriced and do not provide a good value for the average consumer. We recommend using other sites.
Martindale-Hubble – Generations of lawyers have relied on Martindale-Hubbell as the authoritative resource for information on the worldwide legal profession. With a history spanning more than 133 years, the Martindale-Hubbell Legal Network is currently powered by a database of over one million lawyers and law firms in 160 countries.
The U.S. Federal Courts provides online access to federal court records, news, statistics and more.
- Malpractice Investigations – Information on malpractice and negligence investigations.
- Intellectual property
What does a Private Eye need to know?
Private Investigators may need to interact with the American Bar Association in the course of an investigation. For example, a private eye may need to investigate the background of a particular lawyer or law student who is, or was, a member of the organization.