Private Investigators in Oregon Might Become Part of Landmark Case

It appears that a case involving the hiring of an out of town private investigator on a death penalty case may have an impact on how the state pays court appointed investigators.

It all started when a Hillsboro lawyer hired Dave Panter, an ex-cop from Tillamook and an investigator from a nearby county to defend a murder case. However, the state Office of Public Defense Services refused to cover the investigator’s travel expenses from his office to Hillsboro.

The state offered to pay for Panter’s hotel and meals in Hillsboro, but it refused to pay him the standard state rate of $34 an hour for a capital case, plus 40.5 cents a mile for gas, to make the 60-mile drive between Tillamook and Hillsboro.

Since the state has refused, and a Washington County Circuit Court judge is set to decide the issue in a hearing Thursday, May 10.

“These guys haven’t had any raises since the 1970s,” says Barbara Baughman, a Portland private investigator who charges $75 an hour.

What do you think about the fees and expenses associated with court appointed investigator cases?

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6 thoughts on “Private Investigators in Oregon Might Become Part of Landmark Case

  1. I would add here that my comments come as unbiased ones, since I rarely get involved in criminal defense investigation, unless they are an existing corporate or private client. But bottom line, our justice system was designed to be fair. That’s supposed to be America.

    Right now in Oregon, almost anyone can get a PI license. The investigation experience required runs the gamut – from a myriad of law enforcement experience to who knows what else…

    Oregon licensing certainly isn’t up to par with California requirements or testing, that’s for sure… Perhaps you’ve identified a concern we should look into.

  2. Gary Nelson wrote:

    “Ultimately, do these substandard hourly rates, and potentially substandard services, hurt the criminal justice system? Yes. Is life fair? No.”

    The criminal justice system should be fair. If we are really dealing with an unfair justice system, we have great concerns. It should only be a training ground in the easiest cases.

    Perhaps the fact that it is used as a training ground for newer PIs means that Oregon should require more hours for licensed private investigators. Right now, the 1500 hours is equivalent to 3/4 full-time years. Not to mention that the proficiency test is open-book and sadly not comprehensive at all.

  3. This question is not unique to the private investigation profession. If some PIs feel the State mandated hourly rate is too low, they should not take these cases. PIs, as in any other profession, need to get over the idea that some benevolent outsider will step in and save their day. It appears to me that there is currently no shortage of PIs willing to take court appointed cases. And even if the rates were raised, more investigators would jump into the pool and the PIs complaining now would run into increased, perhaps overwhelming, competition. Maybe, the current system constitutes a training ground for newer, less experienced PIs. Ultimately, do these substandard hourly rates, and potentially substandard services, hurt the criminal justice system? Yes. Is life fair? No.

  4. Court appointed defense investigators are just as hard working as any P.I. and they work for the public good. Anyone who has reviewed the stats on the 200 wrongfully convicted “criminals” now exonerated by DNA should respect that.

    These folks are regulated by the State on how much they make and haven’t had a raise since the 70s. I remember those prices here. LOL.

    Furthermore, the OPD is citing that the prosecutors who are complaining about the cost of the defense investigators. Go figure.

    Mr. Panter won his case, but only in the sense of this single instance. They NEED a raise with skyrocketing prices here! PIs everywhere should be supportive of these investigators!

  5. Fail to see any problem. The investigator has his own fees set by himself. If the hiring party wants his services, they pay his rate. If, on the other hand, he agrees to the state mandated fee per hour, then he should expect pay. At any rate, he should not bother himself with whatever the paying agency for the particular state does as he was hired by the defending attorney and that is the person liable to pay the bill. Unless the investigator agreed to something else entirely.

  6. Well just let one of the judges children get in trouble and find out what it is going to cost.
    We get $55.00 per hour for state cases which is $20.00 per hour less than my current fees. Government officials need to realize their jobs come up for renewal every time their boss needs to be re-elected. I think its time for a change

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