The Role of Emails in a Private Investigation

And how important are they to your legal case?

Email usage is making national headlines these days for obvious reasons, but this isn’t going to be another blog post coaching you on how to properly handle electronic communications or what you shouldn’t include in e-messages.

Yes, you need to be very careful about anything you put in any email because everything is saved forever and ever – and ever.  Yes, you need to follow your business’s or organization’s rules and procedures regarding email.  And yes, some of you are going to say things in emails that you shouldn’t anyway.

At Bearden Investigative Agency, we understand that data matters. Forensic examination of computers and mobile devices is an important component of many of our investigations, from family law cases to complex corporate cases.

But as an attorney and an experienced private investigator, I really want to emphasize that actions generally speak louder than words in emails. A person can write just about anything in an email, but it’s the actual behavior that typically is going to get someone into real trouble.

Email Communication Investigation

Essentially, it’s about the meetup: Who met with whom? Where did they meet? How many times did they meet? What was discussed? Who all was there? How long did the meeting last? For example, don’t we all want to know what happened in that meeting on the plane that was parked on the hot tarmac in Phoenix?

Experienced on-the-ground detective work can yield vital information that can be used in court and other legal proceedings. The “big break” in a case often comes from professional, ethical and discreet surveillance.

At Bearden, we thoroughly check the electronic information but we know we must investigate all of the activities that may surround the words. Emails are more of a symptom than the actual ailment. We understand that to get at the truth, we have to actually see – and properly document – what a person is doing. 

For example, a manager may discuss firing, or retaliating against, an employee. But it’s the improper actions a boss may take against the employee that will be more problematic. The same is often true in family law cases, particularly divorces involving allegations of adultery. You can write suggestive behavior to another person in an email, but it’s the meetup that counts.

Yes, please be careful about what you say in an email. But you have to be even more careful about what you do.