A taste of state legislation affecting private investigators

The abundance of state legislation restricting access to public records is depressing for open government advocates. But the head in the sand approach won’t preserve access, so here are some of the Bills under consideration by state legislatures.


New Hampshire

HB 269, An act prohibiting “pretexting” as a means of obtaining personally identifiable information, would invoke civil penalties for any use of pretexting to obtain any personally identifying information.

HB 686 would prohibit anyone from electronically tracking another person without that person’s consent.

HB 729 includes a prohibition on retaining or storing personal information on drivers’ licenses in an electronic form.


Arizona

Legislation introduced in Arizona aims to remove all victim information from police reports before they’re released to journalists, attorneys, private investigators or the public in general. SB 1286 states: “A victim’s contact and identifying information that is obtained, compiled or reported by a law enforcement agency shall be redacted by the originating agency in publicly accessible records pertaining to the criminal case involving the victim. “

SB1286 has other flaws as well. By requiring law enforcement to keep victim information out of public records (instead of redacting or blacking out the information when appropriate), the bill could force police agencies to spend millions of dollars to install new computer software and to redesign reports in order to create two sets of documents — one for public release and one for the criminal justice system to operate fairly.

California

California State Sen. Ron Calderon has introduced SB 690, legislation that was expected to allow District Attorneys to release personal information on arrestees and parolees, which an Attorney General Opinion had said violated the right to privacy. Unfortunately the bill appears to have become restrictive to the point that private investigators and the public might have more difficulty obtaining police reports under the California Public Records Act.

Notwithstanding any other law, a local agency may, in response to a written request made pursuant to Section 6253 of the Government Code, provide information from a local summary criminal history, if the person making the request declares under penalty of perjury that the request is made for a scholarly or journalistic purpose and the release of the information would enhance public safety, the interest of justices, or the public’s understanding of the justice system.

California Assemblymember Dave Jones has submitted AB 1168, a bill regulating public records which contain social security numbers.

The California Public Records Act requires state and local agencies to make their records available for public inspection unless a record is exempt from disclosure. The act exempts from disclosure, among others, any record that is a personnel, medical, or similar file the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
This bill would provide that, notwithstanding these provisions, a local agency shall not disclose to the public any record that is required to be open to the public by any provision of law if that record displays more than the last four digits of any social security number.

SB 216 would allow only the last 4 digits of a judgment debtor’s social security number to appear on public records. SB 644 is similar.

A vague bill, AB 703 requires that records containing social security numbers be destroyed.

Last year’s failed bill, SB 1666, has returned in the form of SB 328, Personal Information: Prohibited Practices.

The bill would also prohibit any person, as defined, from, among other things, obtaining or attempting to obtain, or causing or attempting to cause the disclosure of, personal information about a customer or employee contained in the records of a business through specified methods, such as by making false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations, with specified exceptions.

New Mexico

Two bills at the state legislature would make private records that are currently public. New Mexico publicly-owned utilities must provide copies of all its records, under current law, but the presumption of openness that has characterized the release of government records shifting toward closure.

One proposed law, HB 279, from Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, would prohibit the disclosure of consumers’ nonpublic personal information.

Another bill, House Bill 1027 from Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup, would exempt from the right to inspect public records any law enforcement record of “individuals accused but not charged with a crime,” discharge papers of a veteran and “the residential addresses of customers of municipal or county utilities.”

Is your state government proposing similar legislation?

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16 thoughts on “A taste of state legislation affecting private investigators

  1. Pingback: divorce lawyer directory

  2. PI Buzz is a forum for the discussion of idea, not personal attacks. The most recent posts appear to be just that, personal attacks on Retired St. Police LT, John Healy and indirectly on myself.

    As a Member of the New Hampshire General Court serving last term on Criminal Justice and this term on Ways and Means, I have developed an understanding for the process of legislation in New Hampshire. I am a licensed PI in NH and a member of NHLI (former secretary). I introduced HB776 and drafted the outline of the bill for committee consideration. Actual wording of bills in NH is done by legislative services and by the committee(s) reviewing the legislation.

    With a Citizens’ Legislature the process is substantially different than in states or commonwealths having paid full-time legislators. New Hampshire General Court is unique being the third largest legislative body in the world (400 Members-House; 24 Members – Senate). It is routine for dentists to propose regulations affecting dentists, lawyers regulating lawyers, cops regulating cops, teachers – you get the idea. These people have the knowledge of the sundry businesses and professions to protect the public and advance the safety of the practitioners.

    It is routine for less than perfect legislation to be presented. I can think of only one perfect piece of legislation ever offered and that consisted of only 10 rules (and they exist in two different configurations in the same good book). Even those 10 were modified with the addition of two more rules according to Christian tradition.

    The Committee system in New Hampshire is designed to parse every word, comma, and paragraph until a committee product emerges. Usually this is good legislation. Usually the product bears little resemblance to the introduced legislation. That is the way legislation is created in New Hampshire, and in most other states. It is a long ineffective (thank goodness for no one deserves all the legislation that is offered in any state!) process. If anyone bothered to learn the system or actively participate directly in the system that salient fact would be self-evident.

    There is a reason New Hampshire continues to be “First in the Nation.” That reason is simply that hard questions are asked by the wo/man on the street. Those same questioners often are Citizen Legislators. Believe me being questioned in committee is no fun and it is an exhausting way to earn $100.00 per annum plus mileage.

    I sincerely hope that the personal attacks cease. I can only say that the unique anti-PI motor vehicle and criminal records restrictions in the Granite State stood a good chance of being removed until obfuscation, personalities, smoke and mirrors were introduced into the well-established committee process.

    Oh well, everyone has an opinion (isn’t there a joke about that phrase?) and is entitled to express that opinion.

  3. What Mr. Healy failed to report is that large chunks of real estate were flushed from HB 776 due to strong opposition. The most egrigious language recognized as containing self-serving interest and attempts to inordinately limit entry into the occupation were eliminated.

    The remaining language to include archaic definitions and the lack of definition subjects practitioners and unregulated individuals to risk of arbitrary enforcement and creates more questions than solutions. The issue of mandatory continued education (to those of us currently subjected to said training) would make your hair stand on end. In the grand scheme of things, however, the opposition indeed won out.

    Had this bill been put forth to truly modernize regulatory standards, been fair, reasonable, logical and for the good of the entire PI community — I would applaud the effort. Sadly, this was not the case and the resulting ill-will is going to be difficult to repair.

    I’ve never been one to kow-tow to cliques and clans, but have strived to fairly represent the PI community as a whole before legislature, the public and regulators. I’ve fought against the exploitation of the PI community for self-serving gain before, and I’ll continue to do so.

    If Mr. Healy wishes to cite ‘personal’ please see above hysterical posts of May 15 and 16 in response to my legislative efforts to which I am entitled. Apparently in New Hampshire it is NHLI’s way — or no way. This mentality is a detriment to the industry and is why I and many others fled from the organization.

    And John? You are welcome to call me anytime to discuss your rants.

  4. Thanks to the efforts of NHLI and members Representatives Dan Dumaine and Jordan Ulery, the Judiciary Committee of the NH House will likely vote that the pretexting bill (HB269) is inexpedient to legislate.

    Former members of the State Association, the NHLI, and a former US Marshall presented testimony in subcommittee that allowed the subcommittee to vote against that bill. The subcommittee vote essentially killed that bill put forth by a self-proclaimed privacy advocate.
    _______________________________________________

    The sub-committee hearing HB776, the bill for stricter regulation of PIs, voted nearly unanimous to pass the bill to the full committee after the “strong opposition” was exposed as essentially non-existent.

    The sub committee was actually upset by the antics and rhetoric of the “strong opposition” who have now reverted to open and very personal attacks, in writing, against the authors and sponsor of the bill.

    The normal New Hampshire very deliberate and time consuming and effective legislative process took its course.

    No contradictory expert testimony was presented and the bill was supported by the controlling agency, the NH Department of Safety and the Domestic Violenece Coalition. Input from the Attorney General’s Office, the Criminal Justice Committee Members and hundreds of the 400-Member NH House went into the 3+ years of crafting this bill.

    Opponents tried to enlist the Trial Lawyers Association to oppose the bill as as harmful to attorneys. After a review of the bill, and meeting with the sponsor, the Trial Lawyers stated they had no problem with the bill and opted not to oppose it in any fashion.

    The bill now goes to a full committee for a vote.

  5. The legislative and legal climate for the NH PI is different from “the rest of the world.”

    We have the third largest English speaking lwegislature on the planet. Even though heavily Democratic, for the first time in memory, it is quite conservative when it comes to privacy.

    PIs have little access to DMV, thanks to anti PI Legislator Neal Kurk. The Dept. of Transportaion can place live cameras on highways but can not record images ( Amber Alerts come to mind ) thanks to Mr. Kurk.

    Dumpster diving is prohibited in NH. The Courts look at the intent of the property owner and the right ot privacy extends beyond the curb according to State V. Goss.

    In the infamous Remsburgh Decision, PIs have been made responsible for the actions of thier clients if the client harms a third party.

    Privacy advocate Rep. Neal Kurk appears and and opposes anything positive to do with PIs. He has made statements, to many, many, people he intends to Legislate us right out of existance.

    He is trying to close all Gov’t held records to the public. When he can not do this, he targets one group…PIs.

    Attempts to work with him, to smooth out the rough edges, have backfired many times. His
    hatred of PIs is WELL known to other Legislators, lobbyists and many PIs. A fact of life.

    Sadly we now find a NH PI aligned to help him on Legislation.

    His most recent attack on records: Voter Registration Records.

    Further making it hard to keep records access is the PI, served TWICE, with stalking petitions as a result of “surveillance”. We hear about this every time we enter the Legislature.

    On the + side, the NH League of
    Investigators has won many friends over the years and are highly regarded by the Committees whom we interact with.

    We are working to cure the public, and legislative, misconceptions via a bill for more efficient regulation of the profession.

    It looks like it will pass and it has a clause to make access to records much easier, but this law is not only opposed by Rep. Kurk, but by a small handful of PIs.

    Why would a legitimate PI oppose a regulatory scheme with a proven track record of over 25 years? This was taken from the current law in Vt. which has been used there for about 25 years.

    NH is a great place to live but seems to look at things a bit different than the rest of the world.

  6. “PI teams with noted anti-PI activists in NH to destroy industry. Self proclaimed “privacy freak” (NH Magazine profile 2007) Neal Kurk is responsible for the unique fraud enhancing provisions of RSA 260:14. That bill actively prevents out-of-state PIs from determining ownership of vehicles registered in New Hampshire, even if that investigation is part of an on-going out-of-state criminal or civil litigation. Even licensed NH PIs are barred from getting access to MV information for permissible purposes by the law which thwarts workers’ comp. investigations, witness locates, scene investigations, driving records requests, insurance inquiries.

    Representative Kurk has actively opposed all PI legislation, and most law enforcement enhanced records access and even public court records access legislation claiming that public access to public records interferes with a person’s privacy.

    It is upsetting to see that a person claiming advocacy for the PI industry would announce association with a Representative who has publicly stated that he would prefer to see the profession of PI closed and who has been the subject of complaints to the House leadership by members of the PI profession for his biased and prejudicial remarks.”

  7. I would not post additional information if I had any. If it’s legal, you can find it. If it’s not, don’t do it.

  8. Yes, it really does. There are several ways a GPS enabled phone can be breached. If someone has access to your phone, they can “enable” your GPS function and using software that is preinstalled, obtain your position by “pinging” the phone. This is also disguised as a “friend finder” service. A savvy person can also talk to your carrier and ask them to ping the phone using the three tower method using BS line. The only safeguard against this is the disable your Text and SMS as well as setting your GPS function on your cell phone to “private”. Additionally, I called the software company that was preinstalled on my phone when I purchased it and had them walk me through the steps to uninstall. You could also purchase a phone with limited extras that has no GPS abilities. Lastly, look over your shoulder.

  9. Does the cell,phone method, really work. ,please provide details of ho the tracking is done and monitored.

  10. Being tracked by GPS mobile phone technology is very easy. You can buy a prepaid phone, call it and place it in a vehicle. Or, as I have discovered when I was being stalked, a person gained access to my mobile and enabled the GPS, allowing them to “ping” my location. As a PI I would love to use this technology, but as a citizen who has been victimized by this same technology one must consider the intentions of the PI utilizing this type of tracking. I was tracked by another PI with a crush. I considered him a friend and co-worker. GPS was only ONE way I was monitored. Because we are placed in positions of trust and integrity, we have to assume that one PI willing to misuse such a tool would be enough to keep this from being legal. I do not believe there would be any way to regulate the proper use of GPS tracking when there are immoral and unethical “PI’s” out there to give the rest of us a bad name. This man should not even have his intern license and I shudder to think of his future victims, looking to him for help.

  11. Location tracking technology is probably going to become more ubiquitous, anonymous and undetectable by the general public, which also makes it more subject to misuse. I’m sure legislators aren’t considering GPS in a shoe.

  12. New Hampshire

    Both HB269 and 686 have been retained in committee.

    HB 686:
    358-S:5 Electronic Tracking Prohibited. No person may use any electronic means of tracking another person without a valid court order or other legal authorization or the consent of person being tracked. Any person who violates this section shall be guilty of a violation. This section shall not be construed to apply to locating technology used by the enhanced 911 system or to commercial mobile radio service pursuant to 47 U.S.C. section 332.

    As for GPS tracking, is it the person or the vehicle that is being tracked? I maintain that in passive GPS application, it is the vehicle asset that is tracked as there is no way to know who is actually driving the vehicle. Real time GPS tracking coupled with covert mobile surveillance may be a problem as proposed. However if a registered owner of the vehicle (legally authorizes) the tracking of a co-owned asset, it should be permissible.

    I have offered Rep. Kurk my assistance with both bills. We’ll see.

    Motto: “Complaints are welcome if you contribute to a solution.”

    Deborah Aylward

  13. Regarding NH HB269, this wording is very broad and it will spell trouble for PI’s for obvious reasons. Basically it is saying any pretexting is illegal.
    But the more disturbing issue is HB686. Electronically tracking can mean several methods. Computer tracking by a spouse seems like it would be affected. And what about the use of a GPS on vehicle owned or co-owned by the client? Would we now be breaking the law by using a GPS? This is becoming ever more problematic, and very disturbing.
    I am not from NH, but if I was, I would certainly be contacting my representative to express my concern.

  14. These four CA Social Security bills concern me a lot. I was aware of the Dave Jones bill but not the others. I hate making ANY compromise to limit SS numbers but at the very least we need to get the authors to change these bills to deleting the last four and leaving the first five. Since most of our databases are already deleting the last four we will have no way to identify our subject. We need to make these legislators understand that they are hurting the public, not protecting them. I’m sure the CALI Leg Committee are looking at these bills and will be addressing them at our FREE CALI Leg Day, April 16, 2007.

    Thank you, Tamara, for making us all aware of this continuing fight.

  15. New Hampshire

    HB 776-FN An ACT establishing the licensure and regulation of private investigators proposes a re-write of existing licensing laws. The Executive Departments and Administration Committee unanimously voted to retain the bill for further study.

    Deborah Aylward, Immediate Past President of the Private Investigator Association of Virginia (who recently relocated to the Granite State) organized strong opposition to this measure. Aylward noted among numerous errors and ommissions that the bill criminalzes common business practices and grants regulatory control of competitors to a business organization.

    The committee asked Aylward to assist with obtaining expert advice before any further consideration.

    Bill text: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2007/HB0776.html

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