Finding Law and Order Online- Building A Legal Information Resource

What do you do if you find yourself, suddenly, in a legal bind? Who do you turn to if you do not have the slightest idea of your rights as a citizen and you do not have your own lawyer? Believe it or not, lots of folks have been caught in this kind of a jam. But lucky for them, more often than not, the solutions are no more than a click away.

A resourceful legal website is certainly beneficial to anyone who needs quick and accurate information about a law suit or anyone who wants to learn more about legal matters. Since people are accustomed to logging on to their computers for all sorts of reasons–to read breaking headlines, check the weather forecast, download recipes, and book airline tickets etc.–it is logical to think that they would turn to a computer when searching for answers to a range of legal concerns.

What is more, a website is an obvious way to promote your company and attract new clients. There are numerous elements that could appear on your site. A full-fledged site defines your company’s mission, explains its background, introduces its employees, and lists contact information. But you can also include several different elements. Consider the following:

  • a dictionary of legal terms
  • a variety of legal forms
  • a directory of lawyers (organized by specialty or geography)
  • FAQs and an “Ask the Expert” column
  • links to articles covering timely lawful issues
  • legal case histories

No matter what your company specializes in, a website can be tailored to cover your areas of expertise. It is also possible to make it as interactive as you desire. Perhaps you want to link to lively message boards and current blogs, or offer the opportunity to have live chats with lawyers. Whatever elements you include, the ultimate purpose of a functional, practical site is to provide information in a way that is as accessible and helpful as possible.

Let’s face it, the ordinary citizen is pretty clueless when it comes to determining lawful behavior, be it at home, at the office, at work, or at play. While we all have an idea of what is legitimate and permissible, most of us don’t grasp the exceptions to the rule or understand the fine print.

Of course, it is impossible to cover every aspect of the law on one website and it is impossible to list all the fields of interest here. But a carefully constructed legal website can, indeed, be a source of comfort and a fount of information for the general public. Here are a few examples of the subjects you might choose to address on your website (either in depth or in a general manner):

  • Bankruptcy laws
  • Accident insurance
  • Copyright law
  • Entertainment law
  • Investment law
  • Criminal law and criminal procedures
  • Discrimination laws
  • Employment laws
  • Family law

It is about time the field of law earned a positive reputation. Your company can blaze the trails by putting up an attractive, effective site that not only showcases your services, but also bestows valuable knowledge on those in need.

Hawaii Law Briefing – Hawaii Security Breach Law and Identity Theft Notification

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes committed throughout the United States. Criminals who steal personal information use the information to open credit card accounts, write bad checks, buy cars, and commit other financial crimes with other people’s identities.

Hawaii has the sixth worst record of identity theft in the nation, according to a 2007 report.

I. Hawaii’s Security Breach Law

Identity theft in Hawaii has resulted in significant losses to both businesses and consumers. This epidemic motivated the Hawaii legislature in 2006 to pass several bills whose purpose is to provide increased protection to Hawaii residents from identity theft:

Act 135: Requires businesses and government agencies that keep confidential information about consumers to notify those consumers if that information has been compromised by an unauthorized disclosure;

Act 136: Requires reasonable measures to protect against unauthorized access to personal information to be taken when disposing of records;

Act 137: Restricts businesses and government agencies from disclosing/requiring social security numbers to/from the public;

Act 138: Permits consumer who has been the victim of identity theft to place a security freeze on their credit report;

Act 139: Intentional or knowing possession without authorization of confidential personal information is a class C felony.

Together, the bills signed into law by Governor Linda Lingle as HRS Chapter 487R impose obligations on businesses in Hawaii to notify residents whenever their personal information maintained by the business has been compromised by unauthorized disclosure.

HRS Chapter 487R does not cover financial institutions subject to the Federal Interagency Guidance on Response Programs for Unauthorized Access to Consumer Information and Customer Notice, or Health plans and providers subject to HIPAA.

The underlying policy behind HRS Chapter 487R is that prompt notification will help potential victims to act against identity theft by initiating steps to monitor their credit reputation. Thus, it is critical that any business subject to HRS Chapter 487R audit the manner in which confidential personal information is maintained and have a security breach team prepared to comply with the notice obligations and effectively deal with any breach of personal information.

II. Security Breach

HRS 487R imposes obligations on the part of Hawaii businesses to notify an individual whenever the individual’s personal information that is maintained by the business has been compromised by unauthorized disclosure and to do so in a timely manner.

Under the statute, “Personal Information” consists of an individual’s first name or first initial AND last name in combination with any one or more of the following data elements, when either the name OR the data elements are not encrypted: Social Security Number, driver’s license or Hawaii Identification Number; or an account number, credit or debit card number, or password that would permit access to an individual’s financial account.

The personal information is protected if on a “record.” A “record” is any material on which written, drawn, spoken, visual, or electromagnetic information is recorded or preserved, regardless of physical form or characteristics. Thus, a “record” can be in digital form or on a paper document, which differs significantly from other states that might cover only digital information.

The notice obligations are triggered when a “security breach” occurs. A “security breach” is defined as an incident of unauthorized access to AND acquisition of unencrypted or unredacted records of data containing personal information, where illegal use of the personal information has occurred, OR is reasonably likely to occur; AND that creates a risk of harm to a person. As the definition indicates many times it is difficult to determine whether information has been “acquired” or to the extent that a “risk of harm” exists.

Several states, including Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, and Florida have devised a risk of harm exception. Such exception generally relieves the business from the notice obligation requirement after consultation with law enforcement. Since Hawaii law has no such exception most incidents of unencrypted/unredacted theft or loss of records containing personal information should carry the presumption that illegal use is likely to occur and a risk of harm. In addition, even if a statutory obligation does not arise other legal obligations may exist with respect to the theft or loss.

III. Notification Obligations

To the extent a security breach has occurred, and personal information has been compromised, the business must satisfy the notification obligations imposed by HRS Chapter 487R. Form notices are made part of this article for educational purposes only. The notice obligations must be satisfied without “unreasonable delay.” The only exception would be if a law enforcement agency informs the business in writing that notification may impede a criminal investigation or jeopardize national security. Once it has been determined that the notice will no longer impede the investigation, the notice must be promptly provided.

Under HRS Chapter 487R, the business must notify the resident (and the Office of Consumer Protection/credit reporting agencies where notice has been provided to 1,000 persons).
The notice must be given to the last available address. The notice may be sent to the resident’s email address only if the person has “opted in” to receive notices in that manner. Direct telephonic notice may be given under the statute, but generally is not the recommended way to notify the resident given the potential legal risk with such form of communication.

Under the statute, “substitute notice” may be provided where the costs to provide if the business can demonstrate that the cost of providing notice would exceed $100,000 or that the affected class of subject persons to be notified exceeds two hundred thousand, or if the business does not have sufficient contact information or is unable to identify particular affected persons.

Substitute notice shall consist of emailing the person when the email address is known, the conspicuous posting of a notice on the website maintained by the business, and notification of the security breach to major statewide media.

IV. Penalties

Statutory penalties can be significant. However, government agencies are exempt from statutory penalties under HRS ยง 487R-3. Under the law, businesses can be fined not more than $2,500 for each violation. Such penalty can add up quickly where hundreds or even thousands of Hawaii residents are not informed that their personal information has been compromised.

In addition, a court may impose an injunction on the business and the business may be liable for actual damages and attorneys’ fees.

V. Final Word

Hawaii and other states have taken significant steps to combat the growing epidemic of identity theft. It is important that both Hawaii businesses and employers, and consumers take reasonable steps to protect their interests and reputations.

For Hawaii employers and businesses:

o Enter into agreements imposing obligations on third-party companies to handle sensitive and personal information of your employees and customers in a reasonable manner and to report security breaches immediately;

o Ensure reasonable administrative, physical, and technical safeguards are placed over the personal information handled both the third-party company and internally;

o Periodically have the IT department conduct a risk analysis over electronically-stored information and computer network systems of the company;

o Have IT draft and periodically review comprehensive security procedures to limit vulnerability of the company’s systems and a plan of action;

o Train and retrain employees on privacy policies;

o Ensure company employees collect only the minimum amount of information necessary to accomplish the business purpose.

For consumers:

o Ask your employer, doctor, bank, etc., what steps are taken to protect against misappropriation of private information;

o Treat your mail and trash carefully; use cross cut shredders;

o Use locked mailboxes;

o Keep private information kept in your home hidden and secure;

o Don’t give out private information over the phone;

o Use care when using your computer; create strong passwords;

o Use common sense and stay alert (for example, write to your creditor as soon as you believe you have not timely received a billing statement);

o File a police report and obtain the police report number when you learn that your personal information has been compromised and close accounts, e.g., credit card, bank accounts, etc.;

o Follow up with law enforcement in writing and maintain a file; dispute bad checks written directly with merchants;

o Place a fraud alert/freeze on your credit files (Equifax, Experian or Transunion);

o Periodically obtain your credit report and look it over carefully; note inquiries from companies you did not contact, accounts you did not open, debts you cannot explain and report such information immediately to law enforcement.

SAMPLE LETTER 1

Data Acquired: Account Number, Credit Card or Debit Number, Access Code or Password that would permit access to Individual’s Financial Account

Dear

We are writing to you because of a recent security incident at [name of organization].
[Describe what happened in general terms, what type of personal information was involved, and what you are doing in response, including acts to protect further unauthorized access.]

To protect yourself from the possibility of identity theft, we recommend that you immediately contact [credit card or financial account issuer] at [phone number] and tell them that your account may have been compromised. Continue to monitor your account statements.

If you want to open a new account, ask [name of account insurer] to give you a PIN or password. This will help control access to the account.

To further protect yourself, we recommend that you review your credit reports at least every three months for at least the next year. Just call any one of the three credit reporting agencies at a number below. Ask for instructions on how to get a free copy of your credit report from each.

Experian Equifax TransUnion
888-397-3742 888-766-0008 800-680-7289

For more information on identity theft, we suggest that you visit the Web site of the Hawai’i Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs at ______________ [or the Federal Trade Commission at ___________________]. If there is anything [name of your organization] can do to assist you, please call [toll-free (if phone number].

[Closing]

SAMPLE LETTER 2

Data Acquired: Driver’s License or Hawai’i Identification Card Number

Dear

We are writing to you because of a recent security incident at [name qt. organization].
[Describe what happened in general terms, what kind of personal information was involved, and what you are doing in response, including acts to protect further unauthorized access.]

Since your Driver’s License [or Hawai’i Identification Card] number was involved, we recommend that you immediately contact your local DMV office to report the theft. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your license.

To further protect yourself, we recommend that you place a fraud alert on your credit files. A fraud alert lets creditors know to contact you before opening new accounts. Just call any one of the three credit reporting agencies at a number below. This will let you automatically place fraud alerts with all of the agencies. You will then receive letters from ail of them, with instructions on how to get a free copy of your credit report from each.

Experian Equifax Trans-Union
888-397-3742 888-766-0008 800-680-7289

When you receive your credit reports, look them over carefully. Look for accounts you did not open. Look for inquiries from creditors that you did not initiate and look for personal information, such as home address and Social Security number, that is not accurate. If you see anything you do not understand, call the credit reporting agency at the telephone number on the report.

If you do find suspicious activity on your credit reports, call local law enforcement and file a report of identity theft. [Or, if appropriate, give contact number for law enforcement agency investigating the incident for you.] Get a copy of the police report. You may need to give copies to creditors to clear up your records.

Even if you do not find any signs of fraud on your reports, we recommend that you check your credit reports at least every three months for at least the next year. Just call one of the numbers above to order your reports and keep the fraud alert in place.

For more information on identity theft, we suggest that you visit the Web site of the Hawai’i Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs at _________________ [or the Federal Trade Commission at __________________]. If there is anything [name of your organization] can do to assist you, please call [toll free (if possible) phone number].

[Closing]

SAMPLE LETTER 3

Data Acquired: Social Security Number

Dear

We are writing to you because of a recent security incident at [name of organization]. [Describe what happened in general terms, what kind of personal information was involved, and what you are doing in response, including acts to protect further unauthorized access.]

To protect yourself from the possibility of identity theft, we recommend that you place a fraud alert on your credit files. A fraud alert lets creditors know to contact you before opening new accounts. Just call any one of the three credit reporting agencies at a number below. This will let you automatically place fraud alerts with all of the agencies. You will then receive letters from all of them, with instructions on how to get a free copy of your credit report from each.

Experian Equifax TransUnion
888-397-3742 888-766-0008 800-680-7289

When you receive your credit reports, look them over carefully. Look for accounts you did not open. Look for inquiries from creditors that you did not initiate and look for personal information, such as home address and Social Security number, that is not accurate. If you see anything you do not understand, call the credit reporting agency at the telephone number on the report.

If you do find suspicious activity on your credit reports, call local law enforcement and file a police report of identity theft. [Or, if appropriate, give contact number fur law enforcement agency investigating the incident, for you.] Get a copy of the police report. You may need to give copies of the police report to creditors to clear up your records.

Even if you do not find any signs of fraud on your reports, we recommend that you check your credit reports at least every three months for at least the next year. Just call one of the numbers above to order your reports and keep the fraud alert in place.

For more information on identity theft, we suggest that you visit the Web site of the Hawai’i Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs at ____________ [or the Federal Trade Commission at ______________]. If there is anything [name of your organization] can do to assist you, please call [toll-free (if possible) phone number].

[Closing]

How You Can Play a Part in Preventing the Worker Identity Theft Crisis

Is identity theft a real threat? What can we do in order to protect ourselves from it? Should we just watch our statements, install anti-virus software, keep our social security card locked up, and hope we don’t become a victim? When it comes to a corporation, is there a threat as well? The answer to this question is “yes”. What kind of actions can be taken in order to keep both the company and employees safe from identity theft?

The Basics of Identity Theft

Identity theft is a crime that is done by stealing another person’s personal information in order to commit fraud. This crime is obvious in the example of credit cards that are stolen and used to purchase different items. But there are other forms of identity theft such as hacking into a corporation’s network in order to steal information, using someone’s social security number in order to obtain a job, using someone’s medical insurance in order to pay for the thief’s medical bills, taking out a loan in someone else’s name and much more.

Identity theft is a serious crime that has exploded since the late 1990s. Although it remains a serious issue, the rate in which the crime has been increasing has leveled off some over the past couple of years with between nine and ten million people becoming victims per year. And corporate data theft statistics show that businesses just like personal need to have protection in place to protect the identities of their employees. Identity thieves continue to use more advanced methods of theft increasing the cost to any business that becomes a victim of this crime.

The reason that identity theft has been a rising crime over the past couple of decades is due to the age of technology. Technology is consistently advancing and with these advancements come more threats of becoming a victim of identity theft. Think of all of the different places where your personal and sometimes financial information is stored, such as with your cable and cellphone companies, along with your financial institution, and any shopping that you do online. Then think about all of the accounts that you have online, such as Google, Yahoo, PayPal, and more.

Your employer also has all of your personal information on file, including your social security number, and possibly bank information for your check to get direct deposited. All of the accounts and passwords that you have in order to get into the systems that you use at work. If your company does any outsourcing of work, the risk for information to be stolen from these networks increases.

As you continue to think about all of the uses you have for the Internet, along with all of the uses your employer has, it can be a little scary. If any of this information is stolen online or if your employer’s network is hacked and your information is taken, there are huge risks that you will have someone using your information to commit fraud in numerous ways.

Identity theft can be much more than having your credit card stolen. It can be something that turns your entire life upside down. You will months and even years of your life trying to get it under control. As soon as you fix one thing, another can pop up. If your identity is ever stolen, you will need to keep in mind that it can easily be sold over and over again making your problems a lifelong issue.

Is Disaster Just Waiting to Happen?

Recently there were three legal changes that were pretty major that caused an increase in the cost of corporate data theft.

1. Provisions have been made to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act or FACTA that imposed penalties on an employer that did not protect their employees information with the result being employee identity data being lost. The employer could pay civil fines of $1,000 for each employee with additional federal fines. Some states have higher fines as well.

2. Several court cases have also found that employers need to take extra measures in order to keep employee information safe. Courts have awarded the cost of damages to employees whose information was stolen.

3. Several states have had laws passed making it mandatory for companies to inform the consumers of data that has been lost.

The task of keeping data containing employee information secure is becoming more and more difficult. With corporations and businesses outsourcing more of their work, such as recruiting, background checks, payroll, testing, benefit programs, and even all of HR, it makes it more difficult to manage the exposure of employee information. The same goes with outsourcing IT, how are companies going to manage the data when it is being outsourced. With virtual networks and remote offices being the new trend, it makes it difficult to control the way the data flows and to ensure that configurations are standard. How can you stop someone from burning employee information to a CD while at home? All of the regulations and legislation that has been put in place makes things even more complex.

What company can say that they actually understand everything that has been put in place? The result of all of these things are more data lost, and more issues trying to keep everything secure, and more identity theft. All of this revolves around employees with HR and IT trying to keep your information safe.

The good news is that this is a problem that people are aware of and are looking for. Everyone from the owner of a company on down the chain of command are aware of the issues that can come with the theft of employee information.

The Journey Through Identity Theft

It is important for all companies and corporations to have a permanent initiative to prevent identity theft. A program needs to be set up for this purpose and there needs to be someone that manages it. The management of the program needs to be consistently completed. Examine the risks that the company faces, use leadership skills, and continue to manage the program.

Primary Objectives For Identity Theft Program

1. Do everything you can to prevent identity theft.
2. Minimize the company’s liability for identity theft.
3. Respond quickly and effectively to any incidents.

Critical Areas and Key Factors for Success in Preventing Identity Theft

* Follow the path that the processes flow along with its data. Make sure you are aware of where any personal information goes and the path it takes to get there. In order to test the efficiency of your program and safe-guards, you could hire someone to try and hack into the system to get to the personal information.

* Put restrictions in place to only allow certain people access. This will help eliminate the exposure. Treat this data as if it were your own treasure. Be sure you have unique and strong passwords, training and security agreements for employees, and access audits.

* Ensure your employees are trained on the importance of protecting this information. They should be informed that it is personal data and is not something that should be copied. Inform them of the severity of distributing or selling this data to anyone.

* Create policies that need to be followed by anyone that handles this information. This goes for any external people as well.

Minimize Your Company’s Liability

* Do everything you can think of to safeguard this personal data.

* Have controls in place to protect the data.

* Document the steps within the program and the controls that have been put in place.

* Measure the success you have had with your program.

Respond Quickly and Effectively to Any Incidents

* Clear communication that is proactive, not only to your employees but to the public after.

* Explain in the communication what had happened, that a group has been put together to work through it, a procedure to “lock-down” the data has been put in place as the situation is investigated. Also explain that any employee that was affected will be compensated and given assistance in the recovery process. Services will be put in place to monitor the situation for any affected employee.

* Everything that you state to the employees and public must be true and followed through with.

* A task force must be put in place prior to any incident. They will be responsible for putting the lock-down in place.

* Have a drafted letter of communication written in advance for quick communication.

* Make sure investigative services are qualified.

* Expert resources for assistance in recovery and monitoring services should be researched and selected prior to any incident.

* Practice incidents should be done to ensure that the response can be done quickly and effectively.

* A response to an incident should be completed within 48 hours of it happening.

A quick and effective response to an incident can be beneficial to your company and the reputation of it along with having employees that are satisfied.

Identity theft is not something that just started to happen. It began because of the way that the world is moving. Technology is growing and becoming a more important piece of everyone’s lives. With this comes the risks that thieves will use this expanding technology to steal the information they want. A company can help protect their employees by being prepared for anything, including a potential incident.

Lawyers, Investigators and the Law in NH

Lawyers are trained to litigate and negotiate. Investigators are trained to investigate.

An article by Lisa Stansky noted: “… Investigators often are more successful than lawyers at gathering information from people…”

The New Hampshire Supreme Court also recognized the value of a professional investigation in a child custody matter.

“The evidence offered regarding the plaintiff’s failure to properly supervise and attend to the children was overwhelming…a private investigator testified that when he observed the plaintiff on ten different evenings, the plaintiff left the children alone overnight on six occasions while she visited a male friend…Furthermore, the investigator’s report indicated that following the first day of the hearing, the plaintiff continued her pattern of leaving the children alone overnight.”

There are a few laws that directly apply to investigators. Most, but not all, investigators are aware of these laws, the attorney should be too.

RSA 106-f: 4

Any investigation, for a fee, requires a license in New Hampshire. The statute governing these activities is RSA 106-f: 4. It is the activity that is regulated, not the title of the provider. There are various entities performing various investigations in New Hampshire, without license. The license means, among other qualifications, that a $50,000.00 bond is on file with the State. No license = no bond= no public protection. A license is required to perform the below services:

“business of collecting for a fee, hire or reward information on the identity, conduct, movements, whereabouts, affiliations, transactions, reputation or character of any person, or otherwise doing investigative work for a private rather than a public interest.” 106-F: 4 II

INVESTIGATOR’S DUTY

The New Hampshire Supreme Court stated that investigators can be held liable for the actions of their clients, even if the action is a crime.

“Thus, if a private investigator or information broker’s (hereinafter “investigator” collectively) disclosure of information to a client creates a foreseeable risk of criminal misconduct against the third person whose information was disclosed, the investigator owes a duty to exercise reasonable care not to subject the third person to an unreasonable risk of harm. In determining whether the risk of criminal misconduct is foreseeable to an investigator, we examine two risks of information disclosure implicated by this case: stalking and identity theft.”

TELEPHONE TOLL RECORDS

Recently an out-of-State investigator was ordered to forfeit over $110, 00.00 in profit she made after obtaining telephone toll records by pretext. For a longtime this was a gray area. Recent Federal Legislation makes this illegal, but there are still services offering to do it, they just leave out the pretext part in their advertising.

SKIPTRACING AND RESEARCH

The GLB (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) is one law that governs activities in accessing certain data sources which are used in doing backgrounds or skip tracing for law firms. A person must have a permissible purpose under the GBL to access data, like credit headers. It cannot be resold to the public.

The GLB also restricts pretexting to obtain financial information, but it does leave room for work what involves recovering funds from deadbeat dads.

DMV

Accessing DMV information is harder here than in other States. Federal Law, the Driver Privacy Protection Act, allows for access “in anticipation of litigation.” Sadly we did not follow that and RSA 260:14 is far more restrictive. Not only do you need a docket number but a letter of explanation describing what you need and why you need it. Intrusive, but it is the law.

SURVEILLANCE V. STALKING

Clandestine Surveillance is allowed under RSA 106-f. Note the statutory term “clandestine.” Theoretically, stalking should not be an issue, but it became one in the Miller V. Blackden decision. Surveillance is an exception to the stalking law, if done properly. It is not stalking provided the activity is “necessary to accomplish a legitimate purpose independent of making contact with the targeted person.” (633: 3-a)

Clearly a clandestine surveillance is protected here and this is what the Legislature intended. It is an ‘in your face’, not so clandestine, surveillance that is prohibited under certain circumstances. The burden is on the investigator to prove he or she has a lawful purpose. The attorney must be aware of this when assigning surveillance to an investigator.

The New Hampshire League of Investigators, Inc. (WWW.NHLI.NET) is working with the Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to make sure this is adhered to and training becomes a part of the new licensing scheme for investigators.

INTERVIEWS

An investigator can contact a victim of domestic violence, if working for an attorney, if the investigator:

1. Identifies himself or herself as a representative of the defendant.
2. Acknowledges the existence of the protective order.
3. Informs the plaintiff that he or she has no obligation to speak.
4. Terminates contact with the plaintiff if the plaintiff expresses an unwillingness to talk.
5. Ensures that any personal contact with the plaintiff occurs outside of the defendant’s presence, unless the court has modified the protective order to permit such contact.” (633: 3-a).

Make sure your investigator is aware of this.

CONSUMER PROTECTION LAWS

This was applied to investigators in the Remsburg decision, specifically in the area of “any unfair or deceptive act or practice in the conduct of any trade or commerce within this state.” (RSA 358-a)

Accordingly, we conclude that an investigator who obtains a person’s work address by means of pretextual phone calling, and then sells the information, may be liable for damages under RSA chapter 358-A to the person deceived.

PRIVACY

Investigators can serve the public and still maintain people’s privacy when asked to locate former friends, army buddies, roommates and estranged family members. After obtaining the identifiers from the client, the investigator tries to locate the subject. If successful, he or she contacts that subject and asks they contact the client, stating the reason, and not revealing the person’s whereabouts to the client.

EAVESDROPPING

This is a simple issue. New Hampshire is a two-party state, thus no conversation in person or by phone can be recorded without consent of all parties. A verbal waiver should be a part of every taped interview an investigator does for you.

ABANDONDED PROPERTY SEARCHES

This is a form of data mining, done with abandoned property, also knows as Dumpster Diving. As with many other things, New Hampshire treats this differently. In State V Goss, the Supreme Court addressed the intent of the owner in protecting his trash from a search, citing that seizing it without a warrant was a Constitutional violation.

While this does not affect licensed investigators, directly, it does, indirectly, if the concept were carried over to the private sector. While trash may be off the property and abandoned, it is the intent of the owner it be destroyed, not data mined.

FCRA

Pre-employment screening is addressed here. The investigator must have a waiver from the employee, on hand and all inquiries must follow FCRA guidelines. These guidelines set other standards and procedures for the employer to follow with regarding to adverse actions and other employment related decisions.

COLLATERAL RECOVERY

It looks like any tow service can retrieve a vehicle for a bank. (RSA 367-A: 7 VIII)

(4) whereby a seller or holder of the contract, or other person acting on his behalf, is authorized to enter the buyer’s premises unlawfully, or to commit any breach of the peace in the repossession of a motor vehicle; (5) whereby the buyer waives any right of action against the seller or holder of the contract, or other person acting on his behalf, for any illegal act committed in the collection of payments under the contract or in the repossession of the motor vehicle;

They do have to notify the police within hours after doing it. (RSA262: 3-A) However to do an investigation to find the collateral, if it is not at the location specificed, does require a license. RSA 106-F: 4

ETHICS

Ethical conduct is not addressed in the current licensing scheme, thus no adverse action can be taken for unethical/unprofessional conduct. The New Hampshire League of Investigators, Inc. (WWW.NHLI.NET) is trying to change that with HB 776 which will add testing to obtain a license, compulsory Continuing Education to renew it, and a definition of ethical conduct to give the Regulatory Board and Agency (Department of Safety) some tools for enforcement; better public protection through higher standards.

REASON FOR THE ARTICLE

In order for the attorney/investigator relationship to prosper both parties need to be aware of the laws governing the investigate activity. I have been an investigator for many years and a member of The New Hampshire League of Investigators, Inc during that time. I am its Past President. Our members are kept aware of these laws, by way of our publication, our website, and our training. Sadly I still run into non-members, licensed investigators, who ask questions like: “the GLB… what’s that?” The Miller v Blackden decision is another scenario that can be avoided by knowing the law.

FIND AN INVESTIGATOR

In addition to the educational opportunities available, members of The New Hampshire League of Investigators, Inc agree, in writing, to adhere to its Code of Professional conduct. Membership in the Association is the Hallmark of the Professional Investigator in New Hampshire.

Clarifying Legal Information With Public Divorce Records

The importance of divorce records within our civil system cannot be overstated. Together with Marriage, Birth and Death, this category of records form the Vital Records group within the Public Records Offices of the respective State Departments across the nation. Conventionally, the Office of Vital Records also functions as the State repository and some of their archives hold divorce files from as early as the 1800’s. Originating county and district offices and courts generally go even further back.

Divorce decrees are a mainstay of public information these days. In line with the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act in 1966, this public amenity became mandatory and have remained such ever since. Although there are variations in laws among the various state jurisdictions governing their accessibility today, public divorce records are essentially public information throughout the country. That means any member of the public anywhere in the land will ultimately have access to them although some states are restrictive in granting their release.

Public Records come under State jurisdiction. For states which are less liberal with public divorce records, only the individuals whose names are on the records, their legal representatives and direct family members are eligible to request them. This is because of the nature of such records which inherently contain private and vital information. Under such jurisdictions, clarifying vital information with Public Divorce Records by other parties is only possible with a court order, police warrant and other official authorization or when the records are older than a certain number of years, usually 50.

Generally, the designated state central agency responsible for responding to requests from the public will issue Public Divorce Records or their copies as long as procedures are followed and requirements are met. The charges for them are usually nominal – around $13.00 per copy paid directly to the Vital Records office which is effectively more of an administrative fee rather than the cost of the records itself. County-level searches may be more suitable for some folks due to location or other technical reasons. The records at these individual agencies would be similar to those at the central repository as they are inherently the point of origin of the corresponding data there in the first place.

There are typically a number of options to request Public Divorce Records from government offices in most states namely walk-in, mail, telephone and fax. Of late, online applications are increasingly being offered also, affording a much faster retrieval process with great convenience for those whose time and bandwidth are of the essence. What’s even better is the rapid emergence of private commercial records providers on the Internet. The market is competitive so the industry standards are remarkably high and fees are very affordable. That’s why savvy folks looking to advance their romantic relationship nowadays are clarifying vital information with Public Divorce Records.