Denver Bar Association
July 2012
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What You Didn’t Know a Private Investigation Firm Can Do for You

by Grant Linhart

Grant Linhart


rivate investigators, or PIs, do more than what you’ve seen in the movies—well, they do that, too—but it’s those skills and a few others attorneys may not know PIs handle that can benefit you, your firm, and your clients.

Service of Process: In Colorado, PIs are allowed to conduct service of process to enhance their overall services to attorney and law firm clients. Oftentimes, people who are involved in different types of litigation will avoid or conceal themselves to avoid being served. PI firms may have to perform a "locate service," and maybe even surveillance, to locate the person and serve him or her. If your PI firm offers these services it helps with operational efficiencies, and the attorney or law firm more often than not will get better pricing for collective services than for just one.

Background Investigations: PI firms conduct very lengthy and comprehensive background checks, collecting a tremendous amount of information that exceeds traditional, single-service Internet background investigation companies. If your PI firm has a national reach, the resources that are available to you are greatly compounded. The PI firm can then use its own people in other states and have "boots on the ground" instead of calling around for a good rate from a subcontractor the firm might not know or trust.

For example, ICS of Colorado conducts several background checks for private persons, businesses, and corporations. We obtain information formally and informally, using open-source (such as Google, social media, and database searches) and other means. If enough information is discovered, we also can evaluate the behavior of a subject.

Locate Service/Skip Trace: Locating people who take off, hide, or "skip" is a basic service that most PI firms offer. A locate service is part background check and part records search. It also may involve conducting interviews to get further leads on where the subject may be.

Records Search: This is one of the three most basic skills in the PI arsenal. Obtaining information is key to any case. The amount of information is endless in a good records search.

Our firm was trying to locate a marriage license in another state. Our local office in that area went to the county records office and located not only the marriage license record but also a divorce record and information that the subject had two children he was hiding from to avoid paying child support.

Surveillance: This is the second most basic skill in the PI arsenal. Surveillance issues come up all the time. Sometimes it’s the only way to find answers and the truth. Preserving the visual evidence speaks volumes and can prove or discredit someone’s actions or statement.

We have done surveillance for child custody issues, marital disputes, repossessions, insurance fraud, and counter surveillance for private persons and businesses.

Fraud: It seems that intentionally trying to trick someone or be deceptive is very prevalent in all walks of life. Fraud can be found in criminal and civil matters when dealing with money and valuable transactions.

Bank Searches: If you have been awarded a judgment or lien, or suspect someone is concealing money that is part or wholly yours, PI firms can conduct a bank search domestically and offshore. This information then can be given to an attorney or law firm to subpoena the bank records and start the proceedings to obtain what is owed.

During a divorce, one spouse emptied a joint bank account and hid the funds. During the proceedings, the spouse said there was no money. The other spouse was awarded a certain monetary figure. My company was hired to find the hidden money, which was located in the Cayman Islands. Ultimately, the bank records were subpoenaed and the amount of money owed was seized.

Asset Searches: Similar to a bank or records search, this service looks for property owned by a subject.

Cellphone and Computer Forensics: A good PI firm will have forensic experts working for it in its own computer lab or know a lab with which to contract. The technical world of computer forensics changes so rapidly that this finer skill is a must-have in today’s technology-driven world.

One of our clients was going through an ugly custody and divorce battle. During one of the hearings, the other side presented an altered recording to make our client look foolish. Our client sent us the audio recording for a forensic. The recording was said to come from an iPhone, which records in a specific format. Our lab investigator was suspicious when the audio recording was in a completely different format. The "original" phone had a forensic conducted on it and the formats were completely different. During the forensic, even though the recording was erased from the phone, the original recording was located deep in the hardware of the iPhone. Guess who won that court case?

Interviews: The third most basic skill a PI needs to have is interviewing. This type of training is usually best learned and accomplished by former law enforcement personnel. If you can’t talk to people and illicit information from them, then you’re in the wrong business. A PI must be able to communicate effectively and put the pieces of the pie together.

Workers’ Compensation: These investigations include a thorough interview of injured parties and witnesses of about 100 questions. It also will involve surveillance if fraud is suspected or to "check up" on subjects who claim to be incapacitated. D


Grant Linhart is president of ICS of Colorado, LLC, a private investigation company. Prior to this, Linhart spent 14 years in public safety, most recently at a law enforcement agency in California. He can be reached at or (303) 797-6789.

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