ANAC Automatic Number Announcement Circuit is a telephone number that, when dialed, announces back to you the number you are calling from. These numbers vary within area codes and sometimes within switches in the same city.
arbitration A process in which the plaintiff and the defendant in a civil lawsuit meet with a third party, known as a professional arbitrator. This arbitrator is skilled in negotiating and has the responsibility to help the two different sides come to an agreement. This process reduces the number of cases going to trial and helps clear the court calendar for cases that cannot be settled.
AutoComplete A function in Internet Explorer that can be turned on or off. As a user enters a secure website, he or she is prompted for a user ID and a password. After the computer user has entered that ID and password the first time, AutoComplete remembers the combination as long as it’s on. The next time you visit that website and begin to enter your user ID, AutoComplete recognizes where you are on the web and enters the ID and password for you, if you want. Utilizing AutoComplete means you don’t have to type in your user ID and password at every visit. AutoComplete is handy but not very secure.
bandwidth For our purposes, bandwidth means the amount of data that can be moved along a line of transmission at a certain time. The wider the bandwidth, the more data is moved.
being made Being made means that a covert operation such as a surveillance has been exposed, and its presence has been made known to the subject of the operation. It’s a clue that you’ve been made when the person you’re following gives you the finger.
binding arbitration Binding arbitration means that a settlement must be reached during arbitration. If the parties cannot decide upon a settlement considered fair by all, the arbitrator, after being fully informed of the facts, reaches what he considers a fair conclusion. His determination is binding on both parties.
blood spatter The blood that is discarded during a violent crime. By the study of the blood spatter (not splatter), the size of the drops, and the velocity and direction of the spatter, one might be able to determine how the crime took place.
Brady violation A Brady violation comes from a U.S. Supreme Court case, Brady v. Maryland (U.S. 1963), that ruled that a prosecutor has a duty under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to disclose favorable evidence to defendants upon request if the evidence is “material” to either guilt or punishment.
breaking squelch The squelch is the point at which a radio receiver is tuned to its most sensitive setting. If tuned beyond this point, the squelch is “broken” and the radio makes a loud, piercing sound similar to a screeching parrot.
burglary The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report defines burglary as the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or a theft. The use of force to gain entry is not required to classify an offense as a burglary.
burned Getting burned has the same meaning as being made. The subject has become aware of the surveillance.
butt set A butt set is a handheld device that looks like a cordless phone, has a touchtone keypad, and is used by telephone and electronic service people to identify telephone lines. It has a set of wires with alligator clips at the end. You can buy butt sets for less than $100 over the internet or at Radio Shack.
center-weighted average Many single-lens reflex cameras have a built-in light-metering capability that automatically adjusts the f-stop and the shutter speed. A good photographer will know whether a particular light meter averages the measurement of the light over the entire surface of the lens or center-weights the average, giving more importance to the amount of light coming through the center of the lens, where, presumably, the important image is located.
city directories Sometimes called reverse directories or criss-cross directories, these books are privately published, frequently by Cole, Polk, Donnelly, and other publishers. These directories sort their listings by name, address, and telephone number. You can check a telephone number in the “reverse” listing and find the subscriber information. Likewise, for an address within the city, searching the directory by address gives you the person living there and the phone number. Most of these directories are now online, but public libraries may have older copies that you can use to find out who lived at a particular address in the last decade.
countermeasure sweep A countermeasure sweep is an active measure by an individual with the goal of finding or countering an aggressive action taken against him or her. Typically, the term is used in the sense of actively searching for and eliminating any electronic transmitters (bugs) or wiretaps that are directed toward locations or facilities where the target of the measure would likely be heard. A variation of the term is also used with respect to surveillance.
countersurveillance This is a surveillance initiated by an individual to determine whether he or she is under surveillance by an outside group. If properly conducted, a countersurveillance will identify the entity conducting the surveillance, so you’ll know who at the diner counter is watching.
courtesy officer A courtesy officer is usually a local police patrol person or sheriff’s deputy who is given some sort of discount on his rent at an apartment complex in exchange for parking a marked patrol unit on the grounds and handling disturbance complaints at the complex when he is present. This is usually considered a good deal for the apartment management and the law enforcement department because it reduces crime and does not increase law enforcement costs.
credit scores A credit score refers to one of several types of numerical rating systems devised by credit companies to give a credit grantor an instant evaluation of a person’s risk as a credit applicant.
crime scene investigation Conducting a crime scene investigation entails collecting evidence or possible evidence toward the goal of placing suspects at the scene of the crime. The evidence must be collected according to the rules of evidence, which have been established by law and judicial precedence.
criss-cross directories See city directories.
data brokers Also known as information brokers, these are individuals or companies that have access to specialized sources of information or use advanced techniques to gather information and then resell it to the private investigator. An example of this is asking an information broker to obtain a nonpublished telephone number.
defendant Legal actions require a minimum of two parties. The plaintiff is the party who initiates the action or lawsuit. The defendant is the person on the receiving end of the action.
deponent The deponent is the witness being deposed.
deposition A deposition is a statement under oath, usually written or recorded, that may be used in court at a later time. If the deponent likely will not be available later—for instance, due to illness—it is not uncommon for the deposition to be videoed.
depth of field The depth of field is the apparent range of focus in a photograph. In portrait photography, the background and the foreground may be intentionally blurred and out of focus while the subject, in the center of the photograph, is in focus.
diligent search A diligent search refers to specific steps, often specified by state statutes, undertaken to locate an individual. Usually, diligent searches are required in locating parents of children who are about to be adopted or for heirs to estates that are needed to settle the estate.
drive-by A drive-by is performed by private investigators to make a casual check of a subject’s residence to see whether the subject is home or to observe what activities are taking place at a particular location during a specific time.
dropped When a cell or telephone bill has dropped, it means that the billing cycle has ended and the charges are en route to the consumer. Usually, even the customer cannot access the list of phone charges until the bill has entered the billing system’s computer. With enough pressure, in exigent circumstances like tracing a runaway, you might get the cellular company to give you the calls daily as they’re made.
due diligence A due diligence search is a check of an individual’s ability or, more often, a company’s reputed ability to perform under contract and verifies that there are no liens or judgments filed against the subject. A good due diligence search also encompasses any pending or potential lawsuits or other current or potential areas of liability, such as a pending bankruptcy. These are most often performed when one company is considering the purchase of another company or engaging in business with them.
ESN An Electronic Serial Number is the unique number that identifies a single particular cell phone. This number is continuously broadcast to the cellular network from the phone, which lets the network know where you are when your cell phone is turned on and through which cell towers to transmit your calls.
f-stop On an adjustable single-lens reflex camera, f-stops are numbers that indicate to what degree the iris of the lens is opened or closed. The f-stop setting is one factor in determining the amount of light that passes through the lens and exposes the film or light receptor. As the f-stop number increases, the iris is then “stopped down” to a smaller aperture, and less light is allowed through the lens. Larger numbers equal less light, with all other factors remaining the same. The f-stop settings also affect the depth of field; the higher the f-stop, the greater the depth of field.
FD-302 The FD-302 is a federal form used by the FBI that reports the results of interviews conducted by FBI agents. All interviews are reported in a standard format and are typed or printed onto FD-302s. Law school students learn this early in their schooling, and the forms are referred to throughout judicial opinions.
felonies Criminal offenses are categorized according to the severity of the offense. Crimes that are punishable by one year of jail time or longer are called felonies.
Field Identification card A Field Identification card is a card patrol officers fill out when questioning persons who might have been acting suspiciously. It contains the subject’s identifying data, the date and location of the incident, and a short synopsis of why the subject was questioned.
GPS GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a system of about 24 satellites that orbit Earth and send out very closely timed signals. The GPS receivers on Earth acquire the timed signals from multiple satellites and can calculate the receivers’ latitude, longitude, and altitude.
grand jury A grand jury is a group of men and women, usually culled from the voter’s registration rolls, which hears evidence and determines whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that a particular person committed that crime.
gray areas Gray areas are areas of investigative behavior that might be frowned upon by the state division of licensing but that aren’t actually illegal or unethical.
HIPAA HIPAA is an acronym for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was passed in Congress in 1996. A minor part of the act, but the part most quoted by medical providers so they don’t have to release any information to you, is a section that deals with the security and privacy of health data.
hot sheet A hot sheet is a current list of recently stolen vehicles. Police departments sometimes have hundreds of patrol cars driving around their jurisdiction all day long. Patrolmen are on the lookout for any car that is on the hot sheet. Many police department patrol cars are now in communication with their headquarters by computer, and they access the hot sheet list on the computer rather than a physical printed list, as in smaller departments.
hyperlink A hyperlink is an area, picture, word, or phrase on a web page that you can select with your cursor in order for your browser to take you to another page or website whose content is linked in some manner.
image stabilization Image stabilization is a function available with almost all digital video cameras and incorporated into many newer SLR camera lenses. The camera or lens digitally stabilizes the image to reduce blurring from a not-so-firmly-held camera. An image-stabilized lens on an SLR camera means you can open the iris as much as four extra stops (good for low-light photography) when the image stabilization is turned on.
impeaching Impeaching a witness’s testimony means calling into question the reliability or truthfulness of the testimony being given.
informant An informant is an individual that cooperates, usually without the knowledge of others involved in the case, by providing information during an investigation. She might or might not be a witness or a participant in the particular case under investigation. Frequently, an informant receives compensation or other benefit for information, whereas a witness never should.
information brokers Also known as data brokers, information brokers are individuals or companies that have access to specialized sources of information or use advanced techniques to gather information and then resell it to the private investigator. An example is asking an information broker to obtain a nonpublished telephone number or a list of credit-card charges that the PI couldn’t get himself.
judgment Judgment refers to a final determination by a court of competent jurisdiction setting forth the rights and liabilities of the parties in a lawsuit. Usually, the term judgment refers to a money judgment in which the court may decide that a defendant owes a plaintiff money in a case. These judgments are recorded in the official records at the clerk of the courts office and are generally public records. Credit bureaus review these records on a regular basis and include them as part of their credit report.
junction box A junction box is a piece of telephone company equipment that houses several customers’ telephone lines and connects them to a phone company cable. Typically, these junction boxes house from two to two dozen connections. There is normally one on every block, or one for every 10 to 12 subscribers.
landline telephone line This refers to a normal telephone line that has a physical demarcation point at a residence, business, or pay telephone. The phone call at least begins and ends its transmission along a pair of wires, regardless of whether transmission of the call includes microwave or satellite between both ends. This is in contrast to a cell phone or any type of radio communication, which is considered wireless communication—literally, not connected to the ground at some point with wires.
latent fingerprint A latent fingerprint is a print that is not immediately apparent to the naked eye but can be made visible by dusting or fuming with chemicals. Latent prints can then be compared to inked prints of suspects. An inked print is a fingerprint taken in a controlled environment in which the pads of a suspect’s fingers are covered with ink and rolled onto a fingerprint card.
light-meter averages Many single-lens reflex cameras have a built-in light-metering capability that automatically adjusts the f-stop and the shutter speed. A good photographer knows whether a particular light meter averages the measurement of the light over the entire surfaces of the lens or center-weights the average, giving more importance to the amount of light coming through the center of the lens, where the important image presumably is located.
lines of resolution This tells you how fine an image you’ll get from the camera under optimal conditions. The higher the number, the better the resolution, and the better the picture.
lux This refers to the camera video board’s or video chip’s sensitivity to light. Some cameras use charged coupled devices (CCD). For our purposes, consider them chips. Whatever they use, the lower the lux, the more sensitive the camera is to light, which is very helpful in indoor applications.
misdemeanors Criminal offenses are categorized according to the severity of the offense. Less serious crimes, those typically involving a potential penalty of less than one year, are called “misdemeanors.”
motor vehicle theft For the purposes of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, motor vehicle theft is defined as the theft of automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles, motor scooters, snowmobiles, and so on. This does not include taking a vehicle for temporary purposes by those having lawful access.
NCIC This stands for the National Crime Information Center. Among other things, the NCIC maintains a huge database, run by the FBI, which lists subjects with outstanding arrest warrants. Also listed are stolen properties and missing persons.
no bill The grand jury returns a “no bill” if it finds there is not sufficient evidence of probable cause that a crime has been committed or that a particular person committed that crime. Some jurisdictions use the term “no information.”
optical zoom On camera lenses, optical zoom refers to the focal length achieved by physically moving the lenses farther apart from each other, thereby achieving a greater focal length (hence the term “zooming out” with a zoom lens) and increasing the relative size of the image as it appears on the film or recording media.
parole When an individual is on parole, he or she has been released from prison earlier than the original sentence called for. That person also must not violate any conditions of the parole, or the parole may be revoked and the person may be sent back to prison.
permissible purpose Permissible purpose refers to 1 of 11 (depending on how you count) legal purposes for pulling a credit report, as defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, last updated by Congress in 2004.
pinhole lens A pinhole lens is a lens for a camera that is about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen. It’s not literally “pin size,” but it’s close. It can be concealed quite easily, particularly in dropped ceilings, where the ceiling tiles have a rough texture. This size lens is also popular in Nanny Cams, with which the hole for the lens can be concealed behind a small piece of plastic, such as on radios or many other appliances. They are frequently used when installing a camera in an air-conditioning vent.
plaintiff Legal actions require a minimum of two parties. The plaintiff is the party that initiates the action or lawsuit. The defendant is the person on the receiving end of the action.
plead down To expedite the flow of cases and reduce the attorney’s caseload and the burden on the court, the prosecuting attorney reduces charges from higher offenses to lesser offenses if the defendant agrees to plead guilty to the lesser offenses.
point man The point man on a surveillance is the investigator who actually has “the eyeball” on, or physical sight of, the subject.
premise liability A premise liability case involves the allegation that a property owner was negligent by not curing some default in the premise or real property owned or managed by the defendant, and this negligence led to the harm of the plaintiff. An example of this is the plaintiff alleging that the defendant failed to provide adequate exterior lighting, and the ensuing darkness was responsible for the rape or assault inflicted upon the plaintiff.
pretext A pretext is a subterfuge or ploy used by private investigators to encourage an individual to reveal information about himself or herself or another party without being aware of the true reason for the conversation. In the course of responding to what appears to be a normal everyday query, the individual unsuspectingly releases the information the investigator actually is seeking.
private mailboxes Commercial establishments, such as The UPS Store. Mail is delivered to the business and put into a box setup, much like post office boxes at the U.S. Post Office. In addition to the regular street address and box number, for a private mailbox, the address is supposed to contain the initials PMB (for “private mail box”).
privilege A privilege, under law, is a special right that someone enjoys that the public-at-large does not enjoy. For instance, the marital privilege states that a wife cannot be forced to testify against her husband, or vice versa. According to the clergy privilege, communications between a clergyman and his parishioner are considered privileged.
Pro Bono Pro Bono derives from the Latin Pro Bono Publico, or “for the public good.” Usually it’s shortened to just Pro Bono and means legal work undertaken without expectation of payment.
probation Probation indicates that a person was convicted of a crime, but instead of being sentenced to a jail term, the person is given probation to see if he or she can follow the law, stay employed, or complete any other terms of probation over a specified time period.
random access memory RAM is an acronym for random access memory. It is the memory that the computer accesses when it processes information and runs computer programs. If a computer doesn’t have enough RAM, the information being processed is swapped back and forth to the hard drive, which slows the processing speed and leads to more rapid hard-drive failure and computer program lockups and crashes.
real property Real property is described as anything that is not personal property. Real property is anything that is a part of the earth or attached thereto that cannot be easily moved. Think dirt.
recorded statement A recorded statement is a voice tape recording made by a witness concerning facts and/or the witness’s recollection of the pertinent incident.
registered agent An individual who agrees to be available to accept service, subpoenas, or other legal documents for a corporation is its registered agent. If you need to sue a corporation, your attorney must have it served with the lawsuit. The registered agent is the person who will accept notice of the suit on behalf of the corporation.
reluctant witness An individual may have considerable knowledge of the pertinent incident relevant to the matter under suit but will not discuss that knowledge of this incident unless compelled to by a court.
repeater A radio tower that receives the signal from a mobile radio, such as a walkie-talkie, and repeats the broadcast signal over a larger area than a 5-watt walkie-talkie can cover. The signal may bounce from one repeater to another, to another, possibly over an entire state. This is common with FBI radios. An agent in the field should be able to reach his division headquarters from almost anyplace within the geographical boundaries of his division’s area. Most commercial repeaters, set up for business purposes, do not have such a broad area of coverage.
results billing Results billing is the practice of charging more than a standard hourly rate if the results achieved justify a higher bill or a higher hourly rate.
retainer Money paid by the client at the beginning of an investigation. Frequently a portion, or even all, of the retainer is nonrefundable if the case is canceled. Typically, the investigator bills his time against the retainer on hand. Once the retainer is used up, the investigator asks for additional funds before proceeding further with the case.
reverse directories See city directories.
safe phone A safe phone is a telephone that is not traceable back to the user. It does not reveal its number to the caller ID services on outgoing calls, but it has caller ID service for incoming calls. It is set up in such a way that it can be answered in any manner necessary and is used for only one case at a time. As a good PI, you should have one of these phone lines available in your office at all times.
search engines Internet sites that allow a user to input a search criteria. The engine then searches its own database of researched internet sites and provides a list of sites that most closely meet your criteria.
service by publication or notification This is a method whereby an individual is served with process without physically laying papers in his hand. If one party cannot be located, a notice may be published in a newspaper in the county where the court action is to take place over a period of several weeks. Once this is accomplished, the individual is considered to be served.
signed statement A signed statement is a written declaration made by a witness concerning facts and/or the witness’s recollection of the pertinent incident that is signed by the declarant and should be witnessed by the investigator and a third party, if possible. If the statement is taken in a jail cell, have a guard witness the statement.
single-lens reflex A single-lens reflex (SLR) camera is a camera in which the light (the image) passes through the lens and is reflected by a mirror to the viewfinder, where it is viewed by the photographer. When the shutter button is depressed, the mirror flips out of the way and the image passes directly to the film or image receptor. The advantage of SLR cameras over other cameras is that the photographer sees the exact image that will appear on the final product. Also, with most SLR cameras, the photographer has a wide range of lenses from which he or she can choose.
skip tracing Originally referring to collection agencies’ attempts to locate a debtor who’d “skipped out” on his obligation, skip tracing generally now refers to anyone a private investigator is trying to find. Perhaps this person is intentionally eluding creditors or is merely a witness whose address is not currently known but is sought by attorneys for an interview or a deposition. Universally, however, a person who is eluding his creditors is referred to in the business as “a skip.”
Social Security trace A Social Security trace is the searching of a database by Social Security number. The search normally returns residence addresses connected to your subject for the last 10 years as well as phone numbers.
spoofing Spoofing a caller ID is a technique in which numbers are substituted in the caller ID data stream so that the “real” originating number is not shown, but “fake” numbers appear, or seem to appear, on the caller ID screen.
SSAN The standard abbreviation in most federal law enforcement circles for Social Security Account Number.
subpoena In a subpoena, the judge of a court requires that a specific person or representative of an institution appear in court or at another specified location on a specific day at a certain time.
subpoena deuces tecum A subpoena deuces tecum is a subpoena that requires the individual or institution to provide documents to the clerk of the court as outlined in the subpoena. A subpoena could require both an appearance and the retrieval of documents.
suspect An individual who might have committed or aided the commission of a crime that is under investigation is a suspect or a subject.
telephone break A telephone break is the process of obtaining, with no other identifying information, the subscriber information for a telephone number, including the subscriber’s name and either the service address (if it’s a landline) or the mailing address (if the number rings to a cell phone).
true bill The grand jury returns a true bill if there is sufficient evidence to find probable cause that a crime has been committed and that a particular person committed that crime. Some jurisdictions use the term “information.”
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) VOIP is a popular and cost-effective method of making telephone calls. VOIP utilizes a broadband internet connection to transmit voice and make phone calls instead of using normal landline telephone wires.
web browser A web browser is the software program you use to “surf” the internet. Most likely, it is Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, or Firefox. Apple uses Safari as the default browser.
wild card A wild card allows the use of only partial names in searches. This is accomplished by inserting an asterisk after the beginning of a name. For instance, if you’re not sure whether a person’s name is Rick or Richard, you can input “Ric*” (without the quotation marks), and the search will return “Rick,” “Richard,” “Ricky,” and “Ricardo.”
witness A witness is an individual who might have testimony pertinent to an investigation.
work product Work product is described as the attorney’s notes and research materials and other documents or matters that the attorney makes or uses while working up the case. The reports of a private investigator hired directly by the attorney or working out of the attorney’s office are also considered work product.
writ of execution A writ of execution is an order from a judge of competent jurisdiction commanding that certain actions be taken or cease to occur. A custodial writ would command the person having custody to relinquish custody to the person named in the writ.