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Online Investigative Tools For Litigation Paralegals: A Mini Tutorial For Paralegals And PIs

So you are a paralegal involved in litigation. Why would you want to know how to prepare a meaningful investigative background report on an adversarial witness material to that litigation? Well, aside from impressing your boss that you can actually prepare such a report, the information gleaned by you from publicly available sources and databases will undoubtedly help win the case in some profound way that you could never imagine without first preparing the report.

These types of reports are very useful in the following ways: 1.) finding people for service of process; 2.) known facts that can be used to impeach witnesses; 3. ) uncovering hidden motives and biases; 4.) deriving useful documentary evidence that may later be admitted into trial; and 5.) creating timelines for events, to name a few uses.

Private Investigators typically run Comprehensive Report programs that are both costly and yield a mixed bag of results, as many possibilities generated in those reports wind up being wholly irrelevant to your inquiry and individual. If used as a starting point, the investigative resources enumerated in this Article would still need to be utilized in order to corroborate the data alleged in the Comprehensive Report. Standing alone, the Comprehensive Report proves absolutely nothing.

Cost Effective And Free Resources Available Online:

1. White Pages Premium Costs $20 per month for unlimited searches. [I am not a white pages salesman, but this service is awesome.] You get to search names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. You get both current data, historical date, family members, and people linked by address. This tool is extremely useful for finding people, including current cell phone numbers. You can also try the service for free, and sign up for a limited plan for only $5 per month.

2. Your Local Court System Online Case Search Engine is a tool used to find civil litigation, criminal prosecution, records of domestic violence cases, divorces, etc.. many courts also provide PDF documents online for matters that are not Sealed due to privacy information.

3. Your Local County Public Records Department Search Engine will give you all recorded documents available online that are recorded in the County for that person in order by date of filing.

4. Your Local Property Appraisers Office Search Engine will give you PDF Deeds, Mortgages, Liens, etc.. for properties under an individuals name or property address. So for instance, if www.WhitePages.com indicated an address in Bath, NH for 2005 for that person, chances are that you could go to Bath NH Property Appraiser and find relevant property ownership online from Bath, NH.

5. You can search whether someone ever went to federal prison or is still in federal prison (from 1982 to the present date) by using this link and inserting the appropriate information. Federal Inmate Locator

6. In some states, such as Florida, you can pay for a Criminal History Arrest Search that is publicly available for a small fee and immediately available online. Florida Criminal History Search $24.

7. All States have Department Of State Search Engines where you can search ownership of corporations, limited liability companies, fictitious names, owners, registered agents, etc.. and many States make available business filings online for free. This is Florida's

8. You can research in many states someones drivers license history by knowing their correct name and approximate age and requesting their drivers license history either from the State motor vehicles department or from your local courthouse clerk. The fees are nominal for these reports. You do not get privacy information such as name and address, but you get the complete driving history that also shows suspensions, DUIs, driving convictions, etc..

9. Some States such as Florida permit one to determine if a Drivers License is "Valid" or "Invalid" by inserting the drivers license number into the Search Engine Screen. This Is Florida's Status Search.

10. Research all Social Media for your investigative target including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.. you will be very surprised what you will find. You may find totally false Resumes posted on LinkeIn like I did one time. Very useful for impeachment and finding lies. One you find a false Resume follow up and find the false college degree posted online!

11. Search Google Images for all publicly posted photos and save them to your computer for identification purposes. You can give a photo to your process server to help serve process on your individual.

12. Search Google Maps Street View for images of property addresses that you can print to PDF and save on your computer.

13. Search Newspaper Articles online with your individuals name and approximate historical date. You will be surprised what you find on page 8 of the Google screen.

14. High School Photos and Yearbooks are now searchable for free online from various companies. You search photos for free and then purchase a photo if you want to. This tool is seldom used but has its place for identifying that someone really is who they say they are.

You get the idea. The above list is not all inclusive. Can you think of more online investigative search tools?

So there you have it. I have revealed many online investigative tools that you can use, most of which are free, if you truly want to investigate someone that is a material witness in whatever litigation that you are working on for your Attorney or Law Firm. The best part is that these things can all be done without leaving the office.

The above online investigative tools are both cost effective and yield accurate data that can be compiled into a viable dossier that will be used in some meaningful way to win your case! Try these tools for yourself, get comfortable using them, and use them often as a routine.

This article is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as constituting legal advice. In fact it is not legal advice and was written by a non-attorney. You should consult with your attorney to determine the best course of action to take on your case.

Copyright 2018 All Right Reserved, by Joseph J. Pappacoda, JD, Senior Litigation Paralegal, GhostWriter Paralegal, Chartered, Fort Lauderdale, Florida