Disclaimer: We are not licensed attorneys, and the answers on this page do not constitute legal advice. In any legal action, whether civil, criminal, small claims, family court, etc., we advise you to seek the counsel of a licensed attorney. We work closely with several attorneys and are happy to refer you to them should you need advice, and additionally urge our clients to do their own research of the laws involved, when applicable.
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Q: What is a private investigator?
A: Private investigators are licensed professionals who deal in a variety of information retrieval, surveillance, legal, and investigative services. They are experienced in locating people who are trying to avoid detection, as well as federal and state privacy laws court systems. PIs are often called on to find information about people during unusual hours when their clients may not be available, or when their clients do not want the subject to know they are being watched.
Q: What is a process server?
A: A process server is someone who specializes in delivery of court papers and summonses. Process servers are often hired to ensure sensitive documents (such as protection orders, restraining orders, custody papers, etc) are delivered expediently and accurately. Oftentimes individuals attempt to “duck service,” that is, avoid being found by process servers. Fortunately, Private Investigators can fulfill the same functions as a process server, often with more tools at their disposal to locate difficult-to-find individuals.
Q: Why hire a Private Investigator?
A: Oftentimes our clients need information to be collected without the subject being made aware. This is especially true in cases of insurance fraud, infidelity, child custody matters, background checks, and landlord-tenant disputes. Other times, they cannot find someone they have a need to contact, whether to deliver court papers, reestablish contact with lost friends or relatives, or perhaps even to locate a party to an auto accident when the police have failed to help. Sometimes our clients simply do not have the time to do the required research on their own. Licensed private investigators have access to professional databases that include everything from vehicle registrations, court indexes, addresses, and employment histories. By combining this data with cutting edge investigative techniques and public records research, our PIs are able to deliver the information you need quickly and efficiently.
Q: Can you help me get in touch with a former classmate, lover, friend, etc?
A: Yes! But with one caveat. We are bound by state and federal privacy laws as licensed professionals, and typically work with ongoing or planned court actions. If there is no legal action involved (lawsuit, divorce, parenting plan, restraining order, etc.) we can still utilize our resources, however, rather than hand information obtained over to you directly, we must make contact with the target ourselves, first. Once we reach the target, we will explain the situation and ask their permission to give their contact details out, as well as give them your information. This is to ensure the individual’s privacy and ensure we operate within ethical guidelines. That said, we have reunited people many times and often your old friend is happy to hear from you. It is important in these situations that you be transparent with your motivations so that we may approach the situation with the appropriate respect and nuance unique to your situation.
Q: I’m looking for someone outside of Washington State. Can you help?
A: Yes! Different states have different laws governing privacy, process service, and legal actions, so sometimes we are more limited in what information we may obtain, particularly with motor vehicle registration and criminal convictions. We utilize professional databases and public records sources across the United States, and are happy to assist in locating individuals and assets outside Washington. Occasionally, verifying and obtaining records outside Washington State may take more time, as we are unable to be physically present to pull records, however, with the advent of the internet and digital recordskeeping, these are in the minority. Beyond that, we are affiliated with professional organizations nationwide, and can help you make necessary connections should it become necessary to have a physical presence outside our territory.
Q: Someone owes me money! What can I do?
A: Debts under $10,000 in Washington State ($5,000 for businesses) may be sued for in the District Court, as a small claim. Often these debts include back rent, damage to vehicles, property damage, and contractual debts. If you are trying to recover a debt, we can assist you in locating individuals, finding out if they have property, vehicles, and other assets, and in doing surveillance to determine where they are, if need be. Debts over $10,000 are often litigated in the Superior Court, and we are happy to refer you to a licensed attorney who can assist with your case, as well as helping you find the person. We can work directly with you or your attorney to assist in the recovery of your debt.
Q: What is a skip trace?
A: Skip tracing is the act of searching public and private databases, social media, court records, and other resources to locate an individual whose contact information and address have changed or are no longer known. Skip traces are often performed to find subjects of lawsuits, especially when protective orders, monetary judgments, or custody agreements must be delivered in order to take effect. At Clearview we specialize in skip tracing to you can rest easy knowing how to get ahold of difficult to locate individuals.
Q: Do PIs install hidden cameras, wiretaps, or other surveillance devices?
A: Private Investigators are bound by federal and state privacy regulations which prohibit secret recording in private places and of private communications. Private investigators are, however, able to record images and audio in public and private spaces they are otherwise permitted entry to . What this means is that while we cannot secretly record someone in their bedroom having an affair, we can record them on the street, in a restaurant, in a hotel lobby, in the gym, or holding hands in the park. “Reasonable expectation of privacy” is a legally defined idea that allows individuals protections from voyeurs, while still allowing the gathering of incriminating evidence.
Q: Can you place a tracking device on a car?
A: If you own a car, or own it jointly, you can place tracking and other security devices on your vehicle. Otherwise, it is against the law to track a vehicle in this matter that you do not have ownership rights to. Additionally, there may be legal implications to tracking a joint owner without their consent. Please consult a licensed attorney for advice on this.
Q: I have to serve a restraining order/custody agreement/witness subpoena etc., but cannot locate the person I need to find. Can you help?
A: At Clearview we specialize in process service and skip tracing. If you can’t find the person you need to serve, we can track them down and hand them the papers. We provide our clients with proof of service and stand by our work, so you can rest assured the job will be done expediently and professionally.
Q: I’m suing someone who recently moved. Can you find them?
A: We utilize a number of private and public records and data sources to locate individuals. If someone has very recently disappeared, it may take some time for them to come up “on the radar.” We are happy to attempt to locate them with our basic skip tracing service, and, if they have not shown up yet, continue to check our sources over time until they do. If the situation is urgent, or someone is particularly evasive (common with homeless people or very young people living with parents, for example), we can go a step beyond and attempt to find information on relatives, associates, etc. and utilize social engineering techniques to try to find a current address. In roughly 90% of cases, the basic electronic skip trace ($45) will get us all the information you need. In the remaining 10% where we must take extra steps as mentioned above, we will let you know and provide an estimate for the services required.
Q: Why are family court papers and orders of protection more costly to serve?
A: Family matters, child custody situations, orders of protection, and similar court actions typically involve emotional people, threats of violence, unseemly individuals, and other dangerous circumstances. In our experience these situations are most likely to result in our people being assaulted, threatened, or otherwise put in harm’s way. Additionally, many of these actions require personal service, and cannot be substituted service, which makes it more difficult to provide adequately for our clients. Because of this, we approach these projects with a higher level of caution and preparation than more benign cases, and the increased rates help us deliver quality work under difficult conditions.
Other questions? Call us! 206.751.9210