Missing witnesses create delays, which cost money, aggravation, and time. The longer a witness is missing, the more is lost – in depositions, hearings, settlements, and trials, due to postponements. Some witnesses work hard to stay missing and many have a network of sympathizers to help them remain “hidden. Others are missing by omission, either because they are no longer at the address provided in the police or incident report, or because they never provided an address at all.
Therefore, the scope and intensity of a witness search is highly variable, ranging from a simple phone call, to an intensive search of public records, or to surveillance. Sometimes all elements of search protocol are exhausted in the effort to locate a “hard to find” witness.
The most obvious first step in finding a witness is to check the telephone directory. Although many people now use non-listed numbers, the telephone directory still contains tens of thousands of names and addresses, making it a reasonable first step in a witness search.
If a witness is not found in the telephone directory, a search of non-proprietary databases, such as www.Google.com, is free, fairly quick, and can be fruitful if the witness is not particularly “hard to find.”
Many attorneys have access to proprietary databases, but oftentimes the data is not current. The transient nature of the Florida populace, and the wave of Floridians driven by the current economy to relocate, exacerbate this issue.
Private investigators use commercial databases everyday. These databases compile information from a variety of public record and proprietary marketing sources. The databases allow searches by geographic area and age range, which is helpful in eliminating non-relevant subjects of the same name. If a subject is searched using a date of birth and/or social security number, these databases will also provide an address history for the subject. Even the most robust database is no substitute for field investigation and should be used to make a field investigation more precise, not obsolete.
When the need arises to conduct an in-depth public records search, the investigator should be familiar enough with public records and courthouse searches to find his or her way around the local courthouse. This would include the clerks’ felony and misdemeanor divisions, upper and lower civil court, and the mental health/probate and domestic violence departments.
Once the address list is compiled, along with the most current vehicle registrations and names of potential landlords, the field investigator can begin a search for the subject. Initial efforts will focus on former residential addresses, places of employment, and places believed to be frequented by the subject. An experienced investigator will also identify a subject’s relatives and associates and contact them in the course of the investigation.
Surveillance is a physically demanding, time intensive, but sometimes necessary, component of field investigation. In some cases, it is the only way to locate a subject.
An experienced field investigator, with comprehensive resources and the intellectual and physical skills to track down a witness, can save you time and money and expedite settlements for your clients.
When you need to find witnesses locally, nationally, or globally, call the experts at Complete Legal Investigations. We have the powerful databases and professional skills to locate even “hard to find” witnesses.