Emerging technologies - from drones and GPS to social media and cloud storage - they may help or hinder our investigations, and become the subject of laws, regulations and ethics. Ethics are the moral fiber of a profession. Ethics are not optional - they are as required as laws and regulations - and violating them may lead to administrative punishments from fines to license revocations. The actions of a private investigator, particularly when retained by an attorney, are guided by our own ethics and that of attorneys - and any violations can impact the attorney. Ethics are promulgated by the American Bar Association, and also by the individual state bar associations. It is important to know those applicable to the states in which you conduct business.
In a recent GIMG.tv episode for this month, Dean interviewed expert Kitty Hailey, CLI, about the impact of social media in our ethics - the impetus for the 3rd edition of her book, The Code of Professional Conduct.
Colorado has new formal ethics opinions for attorneys specifically related to social media contact and investigations. These were presented by attorney Forrest Plesko of Childs & McCune at a PPIAC meeting earlier this year.
1. A lawyer cannot do through a private investigator what he cannot do himself; and
2. A lawyer is vicariously liable for any private investigator misconduct.
Specific to social media, Colorado's formal ethics opinion (127) of 09/2015, provides what attorneys and investigator may and may not do.
The lawyer and the investigator acting as the attorney's agent, may:
1. View the public portion of a person's social media profile and posts; and
2. Request access to restricted portions of an unrepresented person's social media profile and posts only after the lawyer / investigator identifies himself as a lawyer / investigator and discloses the general nature of the matter in which their client is represented.
The lawyer and the investigator acting as the attorney's agent, may not:
1. Request access to restricted portions of a represented person's social media profile without first obtaining permission from the represented person's attorney;
2. Use a third party to access restricted portions of a person's social media profile (i.e. friending a friend to gain access);
3. Use any form of deception to gain access to a restricted portion of a social media portion or website (i.e. fake profiles); and
4. Avoid these prohibitions by delegating to others (i.e. hiring an uninvolved 3rd party or investigator).
Our Code of Ethics is posted at
We have posted commentary of ethics in our profession at:
We have also developed a FREE online distance learning course for PI ethics at www.InvestigativeCourses.com