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Episode 86 - Private Investigators - What They Can and Cannot Do with Jason Lanyon

Episode 86 - Private Investigators - What They Can and Cannot Do with Jason Lanyon Image

11/20/2018 9:36 am

If you ever see this guy in your rear view mirror, immediately check yourself into the hospital because there is probably something wrong with you. We are just kidding. The reason that Jason's face has been blocked out is because he is a private investigator. There are times when he has to trail someone and the last thing he wants is for them to spot his handsome face. There are times when a private investigator can really help provide evidence necessary to win a case or prove an issue in the case that will help it move right to settlement. In this show, we interview Jason Lanyon from Absolute Investigations. He shares with us several misconceptions about private investigators. He discusses the limits of what they can do as well as what tools are available to them to obtain evidence in a case. He also gives advice on what to consider when hiring a good investigator.


Leh Meriwether:             Welcome everyone, I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on the new Talk 106.7. Here, you will learn ... Wait a minute, Todd. Todd, what's-

Todd Orston:                   I have no idea what you're doing.

Leh Meriwether:             You've got a strange look on your face.

Todd Orston:                   I was ... Sounded like a Looney Tunes character there for a second. No, I'm just ... Listen, I'm going to sit here. I'm good. I'm ... You do your thing.

Leh Meriwether:             You don't look excited.

Todd Orston:                   Well, you know what? We've been doing this show for a while, and I can't get as excited every show. We could talk about tree bark and you'd be like, "I'm excited!" I can't get that excited. I mean, you know, it's-

Leh Meriwether:             Well, I'm a woodworker, so I can get-

Todd Orston:                   Yeah, well that's a good point. Look-

Leh Meriwether:             Well, what would make you excited?

Todd Orston:                   I don't know. I don't know. For instance, just a shot in the dark, I'm just ... like a show where maybe we could bring someone on. Like not just me having to talk to you, you know? Like a private investigator, or somebody who could talk about investigation techniques, exciting stuff, surveillance and war stories. Now that will get me out of bed in the morning. That, my friend, that's good radio. That I could get excited about.

Leh Meriwether:             Guess what?

Todd Orston:                   What?

Leh Meriwether:             I've got a surprise for you.

Todd Orston:                   I'm going to save a lot of money on my insurance?

Leh Meriwether:             Possibly.

Todd Orston:                   Okay. All right. So what ... I'm waiting.

Leh Meriwether:             We've got a private investigator coming on the show.

Todd Orston:                   No way! Get out of town. You mean this person right next to me?

Leh Meriwether:             Yes.

Todd Orston:                   That is ... He's so good at surveillance, I couldn't even see him.

Leh Meriwether:             He just blended right in. Hey everyone, if you couldn't tell, we like to have fun on this show. While we still take divorce and family law very, very seriously, we like to make the show just a little more lighthearted to help you learn, to help you grow, sometimes to help you avoid getting a divorce, even. And if you want to learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at

                                         Today, like I mentioned, we actually have Jason Lanyon here, and he's been involved in the private investigation field for 25 years. He is the president of Absolute Investigations. He has experience with a wide variety of case topics that range from missing property to murder and everything in between. Jason has also been in private safety for 30 years, having been a police officer, a firefighter, and a paramedic. He has a master's in public safety, and Jason is also very active in the Boy Scouts as a committee member and merit badge counselor, which I love because I was in Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, too. So hey Jason, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Jason Lanyon:                  Thank you for having me.

Leh Meriwether:             Give us a moment, just tell us a little bit about what you do, how long have you been a private investigator and what is Absolute Investigations all about?

Jason Lanyon:                  So I've been in the private investigation field for about 25 years now. Really, we do a little bit of everything. We tend lately though, and it seems to be more of our focus to do a lot of family work, divorce, child custody, things like that. Over the years, we've been involved in all kinds of things, ranging from very minor all the way up to working on criminal defense for people that are accused of murder.

Leh Meriwether:             Wow. All right, so everything from domestic work ... Do you do Workers' Comp work?

Jason Lanyon:                  We do. We do Workers' Comp work, also process service. Over the years, we've done some process service. We're not your typical everyday process server like a courier. We tend to specialize in people that are very difficult to serve or are avoiding service.

Leh Meriwether:             So give us an example of somebody you may have had a challenge serving recently?

Jason Lanyon:                  An example, within the last few years I had a situation that looking back on it was kind of humorous. I had a situation where a lady, a very young lady, had a child that was less than two years old and the situation was not good in that the mother was prostituting herself on a website, so some of the family got together and they wanted to intervene in that, but this young lady was a master at avoiding service. We just couldn't get her in court. So they tried the regular courier. Of course, she's not going to accept service from a sheriff's deputy. She's not going to talk to a sheriff's deputy. So I actually got on the website and made an appointment for her services and funny thing about that is, when she called and confirmed me, I was actually leaving church. I'm walking across the church parking lot making an appointment to see a prostitute.

Todd Orston:                   Explain that one to the wife.

Jason Lanyon:                  In those situations, you tell the wife up front exactly what's going on.

Todd Orston:                   You are smart.

Jason Lanyon:                  So she makes an appointment to see me and I'm thinking, "This ought to be interesting." So I took the court papers and I took out a dollar bill and I folded the court papers up the exact same size as money, and I put them in an envelope and I sealed it and I kind of wrinkled it up, looked like it'd been in my pocket, and I went to see her. When I got there, she opened the door and I handed her the envelope and I said, "I'm sorry, I've never done this before. I'm nervous. I left my phone in the truck." I said, "Here's the money. You count it and make sure we're good, and I'll be right back," and I left and a few years later, the good outcome is that the child is now with a family member and thriving, a beautiful young little girl.

Leh Meriwether:             Awesome story.

Todd Orston:                   That's fantastic. And you know, we've dealt with these kinds of situations also. I had one case that I was talking about earlier today where the person we were trying to get served was very elusive, I mean, was doing anything and everything that he could to avoid service, to the point where we ended up having to get the investigation team to have multiple cars because this person would leave a neighborhood, go down a road, start driving, and then immediately do like a Dukes of Hazzard screeching U-turn and start going in the other direction, and so we had to have cars ready to go in either direction so when he would make the change, that person could follow and then another team member could sort of catch up. So obviously, those are the types of things where you and your team are going to be prepared to do what it takes to get your man, if you will.

Jason Lanyon:                  I think ... My personal opinion is that when you're having to deal with a process service like that, number one, obviously your own safety is the biggest concern, because some of those people are not nice people. But what I try to exploit is things that they can't avoid. I've served people in doctor's offices. I know they're going to the doctor, I get there before they do. I sit in the waiting room. When they walk in, I wait for them to sign in and then as soon as they sit down, I go look at the sign in, I make sure it's them and then I serve them. You know, people got to go to the doctor, they have to eat. They have to go see their mama on Christmas. So all these things, you try to exploit things that they have to do in their normal, everyday life.

Leh Meriwether:             And the ... Well, sometimes I might say, "Man, that sounds kind of sneaky." Well, sometimes like in that situation, there was a two-year-old child who was probably witnessing this prostitution at the home and because you were able to serve ... The legal process can't start until she's served with the paperwork, the complaint for, in this case, a change in custody, and so you've got to do that sometimes just to get the process started, and thank goodness you did because like you said, we talked to you earlier before we came on the show about the child is now thriving, and we can't even imagine what that child would be like today if she was still with her mom.

Jason Lanyon:                  Absolutely.

Leh Meriwether:             Well, we talked about stuff you do do. Are there kinds of cases that you actually turn down?

Jason Lanyon:                  I've turned down some cases, and the longer I've been in it, I've turned down more. We turn down cases ... There are a lot of people who believe they can use a private investigator to harass somebody or stalk somebody or intimidate a witness, so when somebody calls and wants to hire us, generally I like to work through their attorney so that I know it's legitimate, and also know that what we're getting's actually going to help them. Divorce, as you know with all your experience, is a very emotional event and sometimes people will get so worked up that they're willing to spend a lot of money on something that's not really going to help them. You can't stay in this business, which is largely based on referrals, if you play on people's emotions and take their money. So yeah, I turn down cases based on ethics and morality and different things. As a personal note, I will not take a child molestation case for a defendant after hearing the case, if I believe that he did it. That's just where I come down on that, and I've turned down those cases. But I have defended a child molester that I feel like and turned out to be he was acquitted on all the charges, I felt like it was not a good case.

Leh Meriwether:             Well, that's good. You know, I love to hear that because you're right, there are some situations where they'll call a private investigator before they call a lawyer and they'll say, "Well, I want to catch my spouse cheating," but sometimes that doesn't help you in the case. If you have no assets and it's short-term marriage and it's a no-fault state, you don't need adultery to get a divorce, there's, like you said, it's not really worth your money in that situation, so it's really good to hear that you're willing to ask questions, find out what's really going on, and help the person decide whether they really need to spend that money on a private investigator.

Jason Lanyon:                  Well, I think if you treat people the way you want to be treated, you'll be in business a long time.

Leh Meriwether:             Well, absolutely. Hey, I know one of the things that we really want to get into is going over the common misconceptions about private investigators, because as Todd and I experience all the time, people watch lawyers on TV and they get this impression that a case takes just a few days or they walk into the office of the lawyer and two days later, they're in court having their whole case heard.

Todd Orston:                   I fully expected you would have a mustache, because I-

Leh Meriwether:             I saw him pull up in a Ferrari.

Todd Orston:                   ... I thought with Magnum, I just thought that was sort of the norm, like-

Jason Lanyon:                  If you're going by TV, instead of a cell phone, I carry a lock picking kit.

Todd Orston:                   Oh, there you go. Right, exactly. Where's your Ferrari? All right.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah, I thought I saw him pull in with it. Hey, up next, that's what we're going to get into. We're going to get into the common misconceptions about private investigators and what they can't do and what they can do. You want to tune right back in.

                                         Welcome back everyone, I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on the new Talk 106.7. If you want to learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at

                                         Well today, you're not going to want to learn about us because you're going to learn about private investigators. We have Jason Lanyon on the air with us, and he's here to really help, well ...

Todd Orston:                   Educate.

Leh Meriwether:             Educate us to dispel some myths out there about-

Todd Orston:                   You're just going for all the big words.

Leh Meriwether:             I'm making up for all the times I keep messing them up.

Todd Orston:                   He has a cornucopia of information. A plethora ...

Leh Meriwether:             He just took my big words! No. So let's get into the common misconceptions about private investigators. First off, you don't all drive Ferraris.

Jason Lanyon:                  Nope, afraid not.

Todd Orston:                   And the mustache thing, clearly not.

Jason Lanyon:                  Yeah, no. I think the best private investigators, and I've heard this from a few people before who said, "You don't look like a private investigator." I always say thank you. I don't want to look like one.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah. You fooled Todd.

Todd Orston:                   Clearly. I didn't even see him sitting there.

Leh Meriwether:             He just ... It's that camouflage. I think he got it from what was it, predators? Where he's like ... No, I'm just kidding.

Todd Orston:                   But you're right, I mean obviously, and I understand the joke, you want to not ... You don't want to stand out. What you're doing, very quickly, I want to go into the misconceptions, but I've had private eyes literally sitting across a bar from someone and taking pictures with a cell phone or whatever kind of camera equipment that they had, and the person that was being surveilled was none the wiser, and it's because I guess you do need to blend in in any situation.

Jason Lanyon:                  Well, and that is one of the good traits of a private investigator. You have to know your environment, and you have to be able to blend into it. If I'm in a country bar, I need access to a cowboy hat. If I'm in a preppy bar, I need to look like the people that are there, and also being resourceful. If I'm going into a situation that I know nothing about, like if I'm following a flight attendant, I need to have somebody in my purview of friends how can tell me how flight attendants work, where they go, what they do, where are the weaknesses, where could this be happening? So it's being resourceful and like you said, fitting into the environment. I do not want to stand out. I want to look just like you so that you don't look up and go, "Why is that guy here?"

Todd Orston:                   Maybe not just like Leh, but whatever.

Jason Lanyon:                  It becomes a little bit more difficult when there are some things about you you can't change. I mean, obviously if I wanted to hang around at a skate park, I'm almost 50 years old, you know? I might have to bring in a young investigator, or might have to bring in an investigator with a different background, especially if there's a foreign language being spoke.

Todd Orston:                   But look, as attorneys, jokes aside, as attorneys, we don't just ... a client doesn't just retain us and then we just walk into court, okay? There's prep work. There is a lot of preparation that goes into representing a client. I'm hearing, and I anticipated this anyway, but it's very similar for you. It's going to take some prep work. You have to understand the person that you are looking to surveil. You have to understand the environment they're going to be in and then you prepare accordingly.

Jason Lanyon:                  Correct, and the preparation pays off. If you try to attempt a covert investigation blindly, you're almost always going to be exposed.

Leh Meriwether:             All right, so let's get into some of the common misconceptions. You see in movies all the time, you see where the person gets caught on video doing something because the private investigator had set up something and they get caught, whether it's in a hotel room or something like that. So what can ... Does a private investigator, do they get a license to put video surveillance anywhere they want?

Jason Lanyon:                  Well, and the answer to that is no. A private investigator has the rights of a normal citizen except for a few really important ones. I think some people will be surprised to find this out that the extra rights you get as a licensed private investigator, you have some immunity from the stalking laws, which obviously has to be there, but we also have the one great thing. We are immune from the window tint laws, so-

Leh Meriwether:             Oh wow.

Jason Lanyon:                  So no, we're a private citizen out there. We don't have the rights of law enforcement and those type things. So I think the biggest thing that comes to mind that the public will have a misconception about is that we can violate somebody's expectation of privacy. I can, but I'll probably lose my license, and anything that I gather in that little incident will never see the inside of a courtroom. So if you're going to do a good job for your client, whatever evidence they pay you to gather, it has to be usable in the legal system or it's worthless and the client wasted their money. So the expectation of privacy's a big thing. If a person has a right to an expectation of privacy, you cannot surveil them. I can't put cameras in your bedroom, in your hotel room. I can't look backwards through the peephole in the hotel room. I mean, you hear all these things and I guess like you said, it comes from movies and TV, but the expectation of privacy. If you're in your backyard, I can't go hide in the bushes.

                                         But now I will tell you, there are some things we can do. If it can be seen, if what you're doing can be seen from a place where you don't have an expectation of privacy, like if I can see it from the street or the sidewalk, absolutely, I can gather that evidence. And we do have some techniques. I had a case, a kind of interesting story where a person was going to a lake up in north Georgia that was very remote. It was a cabin, and how do you sneak up on somebody that's at the end of a mile road and there's nothing there but a house? But my client suspects that his wife's spending the weekend there. Well, we need to know what cars are there. So we do have a small airplane and we do have a pilot, so we just went up and flew over it, shot some pretty good video of her car.

                                         So a lot of times, and I think you guys will agree with this, this is a little bit of the privacy subject, but if you have good evidence, the other side's usually not going to let it see the inside of a courtroom.

Leh Meriwether:             Right.

Jason Lanyon:                  I mean, I've heard you talk about it on some of your shows before. By the way, listened to some of your shows. Amazed how much I've already learned. I think it's amazing.

Leh Meriwether:             Well, thank you.

Jason Lanyon:                  Anyway, back to the expectation-

Todd Orston:                   You can come back anytime now. And the check is in the mail.

Jason Lanyon:                  Well, I listened because I wanted to kind of get a feel for how the show was, but I mainly ... The first one I listened to was about your assets, and I don't want to go way down this jail, but about hiding assets during a divorce, and I thought to myself, after 25 years, a lot of attorneys I've worked for I don't think have a clue about some of those things, and obviously I didn't, either, about how crafty people can be. But now when I can walk into an attorney's office and go, "Hey, have you thought about this? Have you thought about this? Have you thought about that?" So a good education.

                                         Back to the privacy laws, you just can't violate somebody's expectation of privacy. It'll never see the inside of a courtroom and you can end up losing your license or maybe even going to jail.

Todd Orston:                   Yeah, and we as attorneys, there is a level of extrapolation that goes on. I mean, what we see in the movies and on TV, you're right, there's cameras in the bedroom or whatever, that doesn't happen. That can't happen. As a matter of fact, you may not only be doing something that will keep the evidence out of court, but it could land you in jail. But there is a level of extrapolation or an amount of extrapolation in the sense that we've hired people before where they will ... we know that a couple is getting together and we are able to get video in public places where they are holding hands, a kiss, whatever, clearly a romantic relationship, and then they go into a hotel and then the report then will say, "By the way, we stayed there all night or we stayed there for X number of hours. They came out together the following morning, i.e., they stayed together in that hotel," and again, at that point, the argument that we as attorneys make to court is, "Well clearly, we can't get into the bedroom and don't want to, really, but look at the behavior outside and they stayed together at a hotel," and we make that same argument that look, they clearly are engaged in a romantic relationship.

Jason Lanyon:                  Well, and I think the way we look at it is exactly the same. What we're looking for is an inference from the court that is a lot of times common sense, that if I can put you in private places where you shouldn't be, probably, like a hotel room, and then on top of that, the icing on the cake, if I can add the PDA, the public display of affection to it, that takes away the whole defense, "Oh, he's my friend." We know he's your friend, okay, but friends don't kiss at the coffee shop. So like I said-

Todd Orston:                   Leh and I are not friends.

Jason Lanyon:                  So I guess one more-

Leh Meriwether:             He had to make the show creepy.

Jason Lanyon:                  One more privacy story, if you want to hear a pretty good privacy story, and I alluded to it earlier is, if you're going to do something in a private place, don't do it where it can be seen from a public place. So a good story a while back, following a lady, she's in a bar. She picks up a guy, they leave, we follow them. We figure the best we're going to get, she's going to stay the night there and we'll start working on what we just talked about. Voila, the window's open and they are actually ... I can see it from the street. Out comes the camera. I mean, that rarely, rarely happens that somebody will do something so brazen, but needless to say, that case was settled pretty quick. It never saw the inside of a courtroom.

Leh Meriwether:             I love those stories.

Todd Orston:                   Because they happen so infrequently. The equivalent for us would be that cross-examination, like the old Ironside episode-

Leh Meriwether:             The Perry Mason?

Todd Orston:                   Yeah, the Perry Masons where on cross-examination, "Fine, I killed them," and it's like, oh wow. All right, well, I guess we're done.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah. Didn't see that coming. Yeah, that happens so rarely. So real quick, you talked about flying over, so there's no expectation of privacy I guess so if you're looking up and there's a plane flying over, you don't have an expectation of privacy out there, and if you haven't done the research on it or don't know, don't worry about it, because I haven't done the research, I've actually been wanting to, on drones, because I've been hearing sort of mixed legal results, depending on what state you're in, about can you fly over someone while using a drone and get footage.

Jason Lanyon:                  I don't know. I think you could do a whole show on it, and I think it's so new that the rules haven't really all been-

Todd Orston:                   I think you're right.

Leh Meriwether:             All right, so that's what we've got to research so you can come back on, using drones. But up next, we're going to continue to break down some of myths about what private investigators can do, and we're going to talk about what they actually can do to help you in certain situations.

                                         Welcome back everyone, I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on the new Talk 106.7. If you want to learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at

                                         Because we don't want to talk about ourselves, we want to talk with Jason because he's here today breaking down all the myths about with private investigators can't do or myths what they can do, talking about what they can't do and talking about what they can do if you have a certain situation where you need some evidence that would help you in the courtroom. Obviously, we're focusing more on family law, but Jason, you cover all kinds of things, not just domestic stuff, but Workers' Comp, criminal defense type work, so over your 25 years, you've had all kinds of situations where you've been able to help out clients.

Jason Lanyon:                  Absolutely. The next thing I want to talk about, the misconception is what can a private investigator do with email. Everybody knows in this day and age, email, cell phones, all the digital world we live in, there's a lot of evidence that's probably involved in that in some of these situations. So what we can't do is, and this is a common request, is can you just hack my wife's email? Well, you know, I can't, personally. I don't have the knowledge. My 12-year-old probably could, but can you take that to court? Can I walk into court and say, "Hey judge, my 12-year-old broke into the guy's computer and this is what we got"? Absolutely not. It has to be court worthy.

                                         But what we can we do? And this is what I tell people, if there is some of this evidence sitting out there in the digital world that we need to put our hands on, there are ways to do that, working with the attorneys and once the court case is open, using subpoenas. I've served a lot of subpoenas on Verizon and AT&T and all the big carriers, and some of the email accounts can be subpoenaed, work emails. A lot of people think, "Oh, it's inside my work. I've got a workplace romance going. This'll never come out." Just not true. Once we subpoena the records, then usually a lot of the picture is painted pretty quickly.

                                         People who tend to get involved in these things don't think very clearly and they tend to lay records everywhere, so cell phones being one of my favorites, we don't have the access we used to have. I used to be able to get a cell phone bill without you knowing and without going through your carrier, but some of the federal laws changed, so now I need to use subpoena. But once I get a cell phone record, I mean you think about it, pretty much almost everybody's primary means of communication these days is a cell phone, so it's usually a pretty good indicator of who we're going to be watching and what's going on. Over the years, we've developed some methods of looking at cell phones and using some computer software to manipulate the bills to show some patterns, and usually the picture's painted pretty quickly.

Leh Meriwether:             Ah, so you can use software to see like when this certain telephone number's being called during what time of the day.

Jason Lanyon:                  Well, for example, to me it's common sense. I guess a lot of people don't think about it, but if I text with somebody all morning, 100 texts in two hours, and I've seen 894 texts in a 24-hour period one time.

Leh Meriwether:             Wow.

Jason Lanyon:                  So these people really liked each other, but when you're texting, all the sudden, we're texting until 11:30 and then there's no more texts until 2:00, I can deduce that you probably met for lunch, and when I want to do surveillance on you, I'm probably going to choose lunch. The other thing that it'll show is the patterns of the calls and who you're calling. For example, if somebody texts with somebody all day, but there's no texts after they get home at night, or there's no more phone calls after they get home, what are you doing differently when you're with your spouse than when you're not?

                                         So there's just a lot of patterns, but if you look through those phone bills and you know a way to look at them. Another one that was really, I think they thought they were pretty slick, she never called the guy, she rarely texted him, but she would text him and then she would get a phone call from a number and the call would last an hour and a half, and then the next time it happened, it happened, it happened, it happened, well I mean obviously the guy you're texting is calling you back for an hour and a half, that's probably your guy.

Leh Meriwether:             Right.

Jason Lanyon:                  You know? So ...

Leh Meriwether:             So you look for patterns.

Jason Lanyon:                  We do look for patterns, because people are creatures of habit. Most people follow certain patterns in their normal everyday lives, whether they realize it or not, and so usually if you're doing something now, you'll be doing it next week and I'll be there to join you.

Todd Orston:                   And look, I've made this comment many times, when I was a prosecutor, there's a reason why the criminal justice system works, and it's because people sometimes think they're smarter than they are, and they think that they're getting away with something and they're acting in a way that they're going to get away with whatever it is they're trying to do, and again, sometimes you have to be one, two, three steps ahead of those people, but in your situation, absolutely. Somebody might think, "Oh, well, we're using a burner phone and I'm doing it when my husband's at work," or whatever. You may not hear the conversation, but as an attorney, we can put together a lot of the evidence to paint a pretty clear picture that what you're doing is probably improper. The person you're talking with, it's probably not just a friend.

Jason Lanyon:                  Correct.

Leh Meriwether:             So I want to, something else you mentioned earlier that's been at the tip of my tongue. You had said you're probably going to meet them there, meaning that they planned to go to lunch. So what is it, in a public place, what is it you can do to record information? You talked about a video earlier, but what about audio? What is it that you can capture in what format when someone's out in a public place?

Jason Lanyon:                  We tend to stick to only video. Anything that can be seen in the public can be videoed in the public. Matter of fact, I've heard some, and I don't have the exact stats, but the average person is caught on camera fiftysomething times a day. I mean, there's cameras everywhere. You go to the ATM, you drive by the RaceTrac gas station, there's cameras everywhere. We are on camera everywhere. So if you're in a bar and you're drinking with your person or you're doing something ... drinking alone may be the case, which is a case I recently had where a lady would leave for lunch from her job, and she was a recovering addict, and she would drink through lunch and then she would stop on the way home and drink, and it was enough, unfortunately, to end the marriage. But it was an everyday occurrence. So whatever it is we're trying to capture, if we're in a public place, I could use a cell phone. We do have some other covert cameras if I have to be in a place where it wouldn't be appropriate for me to have a cell phone.

Todd Orston:                   What about audio enhancement tools?

Leh Meriwether:             You see them in the spy movies all the time, they have a-

Jason Lanyon:                  So we stay away from audio because of the federal eavesdropping laws, and you'll notice, I think, that a lot of video cameras that are catching things don't catch audio, and that's the reason why. A person has a right to privacy when they're talking with somebody else, even if they're out in public. Now, if you're a party to the conversation, because this is a one party state, some are two party states. What that means is in Georgia, that if you're talking to me, I can record you without asking you. Now, some places it takes two parties to do that and we will do that occasionally. I've had conversations with my subject at the bar before. It happens, and I will record it. But I cannot record you two, if both you guys are sitting at a table and I can hear you, I can't record you. I'm not a party to that conversation. It would be a violation of federal eavesdropping.

Leh Meriwether:             All right, so when you talk about you may start talking to someone, having a conversation with them and may record that conversation, do you ever confront people? You see sometimes private investigators go up and ... Well, going back to the old Magnum, P.I. series and sometimes he'd get in the brawl and-

Todd Orston:                   The helicopter comes in and ... Anyway, yeah.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah, so again, that's what we see on TV. What is it y'all normally do?

Jason Lanyon:                  I mean, you have to approach this as much ... and granted, everybody who does something for a living, obviously most people enjoy it. I enjoy this, but it is still my job, so the answer is no, this is not the primary thing in my life. My family is, and my safety is, and our investigators' safety is. So we avoid confrontations. Unlike TV, that's the number one rule of private investigations. If the situation gets bad, you just leave. I mean, you just avoid confrontation because-

Todd Orston:                   That's not your role.

Jason Lanyon:                  Yeah, that's right. It's not your role, and it's extremely dangerous. I can't tell you how many private citizens that weren't private investigators and also police officers who have been killed intervening in domestic relations. Domestic relations are highly emotional and if they're violent, it could be deadly. So if you want to intervene between a man and a woman that are in some type of domestic dispute, you are in a dangerous, dangerous situation. The best thing you can do is remove yourself from that. Like we say, live to fight another day. You know, I'm not going to confront you. You're not going to like me very much when we all sit down in the attorney's office and they tell you what I saw you do or they show you my video, but in court, you can not like me, but out on the street, I'm not going to confront you. I mean, I think that's TV.

Todd Orston:                   Well hopefully, they don't even know you're there.

Leh Meriwether:             Right.

Jason Lanyon:                  Most of the time, they find it as a shock that they were ever followed.

Leh Meriwether:             I have found that, that they are, "Wow, somebody was following me this whole time?"

Jason Lanyon:                  And you know, occasionally you get caught. You do it enough, you get caught. I've had the lady walk up to my window and tap on it and go, "Hey, why are you following me?" And you go, "Hmm, I don't know. I shouldn't have done it today," you know? So there are some people that are surveillance aware. That's part of learning the background. Has this person been caught doing this before? We might need to be a little more careful. Most people are pretty oblivious to their surroundings, I think.

Leh Meriwether:             Well, that's a good tip. I never thought about that before, hey, has this person ever been investigated before? That's good to know.

Todd Orston:                   Well, and I'm assuming that's part of the preparation that you're going to do. You're going to try and understand who the person is, have they been through an investigation before, have they been investigated before, to make sure you take all the precautionary steps you need to.

Jason Lanyon:                  Real quick, because we're coming up on the end of a break, but I surveilled an on-duty police officer, and you talk about nervous, because you know that guy is aware.

Leh Meriwether:             Oh yeah.

Jason Lanyon:                  I mean, I'm in his little town way up in north Georgia, following him around, and I did, I caught him with his girlfriend behind the [inaudible 00:33:23].

Leh Meriwether:             Hey, up next, we are going to talk about what you need to think about to choose the right private investigator for you.

                                         Welcome back everyone, I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on the new Talk 106.7. If you want to learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at

                                         But today, we're not talking about Todd, even though he likes that. We are talking with Jason Lanyon, and he is from, actually he's in charge of the Absolute Investigations company and they have been doing private investigation work for the last 25 years. He's been breaking down all the myths about private investigators and talking about what they can do and how he's able to get information to help people.

                                         Now, we haven't quite finished this, and before we end the show, I definitely want to ask you what do you need to think about to choose a private investigator, but before we get there, there's other questions I really want to ask, because I know some of the answers to these already because we've used private investigators and we've actually used Jason on some cases, so that's why we can't show his picture. We don't want people to know.

Todd Orston:                   Well, the good thing is, this is radio. I don't know.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah, I know.

Todd Orston:                   Yeah, so the picture's not ... The picture's a little grainy.

Leh Meriwether:             It is, but ... Yeah. But I'm talking about when we put a Facebook post up about it or something.

Todd Orston:                   Ah. Okay. Got it.

Leh Meriwether:             All right, so tracking vehicles. How can you ... Can you track vehicles legally?

Jason Lanyon:                  Yes and no. If you have a right to the vehicle, and in Georgia, you're the attorneys, I don't like to sound like an attorney, but I've been doing this so long that sometimes I use the same words, but this is a joint marital state. Am I using the right term?

Todd Orston:                   Joint marital property? Sure.

Jason Lanyon:                  Yes.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah.

Jason Lanyon:                  So husband and wife live together, they're married and they have a car. Maybe the wife drives it more than him. It's still half his car. If he gives me permission to put a tracking device on it, yes, I can put one on it. Can I just go and put a tracking device on somebody's car that I don't have a right to? Absolutely not, and I think a lot of people see that on TV, that we just slap a little device on there and all of the sudden, it tells you everything, and it's just not quite that easy. But there are times, yes, when we can use a tracking device and in Atlanta traffic, they're very valuable if that situation exists.

                                         There's other situations between a husband and wife where you can't use a GPS tracking device. Your husband drives a company car? Wife can't give permission to put a tracking device on that car. So you just have to know what you can and can't do and not run afoul of that, because again, the purpose is to get the evidence you want, but it's no good if you can't get it into court or you can't use it legally, so you've got to do it right.

Todd Orston:                   Yeah, and I'm going to make one cautionary statement, and Leh, you were sort of hitting on this a little bit earlier, but you really need to make sure you know who it is you're working with, because there are attorneys who will do things that we might believe it violates certain ethical values. The same thing goes for PIs. You could probably find someone who will, if not break rules, bend rules, okay? And the only thing I can tell you is, in my opinion, don't work with that person. You need to make sure when you're interviewing somebody, you understand what is right, what is wrong, what is legal, what is not legal, because it sometimes doesn't just end at, "Oh, we can't use the evidence I paid a lot of money for in court." It might actually land you in legal trouble, and so you need to find someone who understands the rights, the wrongs, the legals, the illegals, and then gives you good advice and comes up with a strategy that isn't going to get you into hot water.

Jason Lanyon:                  Well, I agree with that totally. The most successful cases that we work on are guided by a good attorney that has a strategy and knows what needs to be done to make that happen, and is willing to stay within the confines of the law and protect the evidence so that it actually is usable. Like you said, there's a lot of times, and I suspect there's a lot of people who do bend the rules, but you can only bend the rules so many times and your number's going to come up, and it's just not worth it. There's plenty of legitimate work that you don't have to do the illegitimate work. And there's other ways. If you cannot track a car with a GPS, I mean, GPS is relatively new. I remember the first one we had was in '95. This will kind of tell you some things about GPS and technology. The very first tracking device we had was analog. We paid $7500 for it-

Leh Meriwether:             Oh my gosh.

Jason Lanyon:                  ... and it cost a dollar a minute to use it, and it was about the size of a shoebox. So you look at what we have now, there's tracking devices that are like the size of a pack of cigarettes and they cost a hundred bucks. So even if you can't use a tracking device, there's other ways to do things. You can use multiple investigators. You can look at other evidence that might tell you maybe where you need to be ahead of time. You'd be amazed how many people will go meet their boyfriend or their girlfriend and will charge it on their debit card and they lay down a habit that they're eating at this restaurant every fourth day or whatever. There's a lot of other ways to anticipate where to be, and you can successfully follow people if you use the right number investigator and you have some trained investigators. Are you going to lose people in Atlanta traffic? Absolutely, but if I lose you three times and each time, you take me closer to the hotel, on the fourth time, I'll make it to the hotel.

Leh Meriwether:             Not to mention, it sounds like you figure out the patterns anyways.

Jason Lanyon:                  Sure.

Leh Meriwether:             And so sometimes, you don't even need a GPS if you can look at cell phone records or any other sort of records to evaluate where that person's going.

Todd Orston:                   Yeah, I hate the saying, but there are many ways to skin the cat, and there are a number of ways, and as attorneys, that's what we oftentimes have to do. We look at what our ultimate goal, what our what I like to call our destination is. What are we trying to accomplish for our client, and then we figure out, okay, how many different ways are there that we can accomplish that goal for the client, similar to what you're talking about. GPS, sure. Would that make it easy? Absolutely. But it may not be possible, and so if not, are there other ways to accomplish the same goal? Yeah, there are. You just need to have someone like you that is willing to explore the different options to accomplish what it is you're trying to accomplish.

Jason Lanyon:                  I agree totally. If the depth of your knowledge and experience is a GPS, you're going to be really frustrated, because there's going to be a lot of cases you can't lose it on. You know, you draw on your life experience and your experience in the field and you try to find another weakness in that person's subterfuge, and that's what you attack.

Leh Meriwether:             All right, so I've got a question that I think a lot of people what to know the answer to is, how do you choose a private investigator? What is it that someone should be thinking about when picking a private investigator to help them with whatever case they've got?

Jason Lanyon:                  I have three main points about this that I'd like to make real quick, and the first one is, be aware just like anything in life, of something that sounds too good to be true. If a private investigator makes you promises that sound too good to be true, they probably are, just like the guy that's selling you an iPod for $12. It's probably too good to be true. I don't mean that you should hire the most expensive private investigator or base it solely on price, but if there's a guy that's willing to do it for a third of what all the other guys are going to do it, probably not the best guy. I mean, that's just common sense. Or if he says he can do things that you suspect are illegal or if he's willing to break those rules, you're going to probably end up not getting what you pay for.

                                         The second point is, choose an investigator that's trusted by your attorney. Attorneys have investigators that they've work with, they have experience with. If the investigator's still working with them, obviously they trust the guy and they know what he can do and they know that he'll shoot straight with you. The third thing I'd say is you should check and see if they're licensed. Private investigators are required to have a license in Georgia, and anybody can search by name or company name on the Georgia Secretary of State's website. There are a lot of people on there whose licenses are lapsed, who never had a license.

                                         Interesting story, a few years ago in a market just north of here, there was a local radio station and all of the sudden, there was ads on every hour for this new private investigation company. He's running radio ads, and I mean, we do all right, but that's not typically how we advertise. So I'm thinking, where did this guy come from? I've been around here 15 years, I've never heard of this company. So I went and did some research. He don't even have a license and he's advertising on the radio. So I call him and I say, "Hey, is this so-and-so?" "Yeah." "Did you know you have to have a license in the state of Georgia?" He said, "No, I just got here from Colorado, man. I've been a police officer for 30 years. I'm a private investigator now." I said, "Well, you might want to check on that." End of the radio ads. Next week, they ended.

                                         So if a person is legitimate, they will have a license.

Leh Meriwether:             Well, that's a good point, too. Just because they're advertising on the radio doesn't necessarily mean they're legitimate. That is a good story. Hey, we're about at the end of the show and I don't want to end this show without people knowing how they can get ahold of you if they want to hire you. So Jason, tell people what's the best way for people to find you.

Jason Lanyon:                  I can tell you the best way is to have your attorney call me, but I will talk to anybody who calls me. The best way to get me is by the phone, 404-556-4596. Absolutely best way would be to go through these guys and hire them at Meriwether & Tharp, and then they'll call me. That'll cut out any questions. But we are also on the web at

Leh Meriwether:             Okay.

Todd Orston:                   Yeah, and I want to say one quick thing, that it is a good idea always, whether it's us, I appreciate your comment, but whether it's us or another attorney, it's always good to go through the attorney because then all the work the PI is doing is work product.

Leh Meriwether:             Or at least most of it.

Todd Orston:                   Most of it, correct. So there are strategic reasons why you want to go through an attorney anyway, but I very much, I like your plan also.

Jason Lanyon:                  Well, and we find that to be the case really often, and that is, I'll say, "Hey, you need to let your attorney hire me, because most of it's not discoverable."

Leh Meriwether:             Right. Jason, thanks so much for coming on the show. We've really enjoyed having you, and I've learned a little bit more today.

Todd Orston:                   Absolutely.

Leh Meriwether:             And Todd was excited, so that was good. You can read more about us and find more information about us online at Thanks so much for listening.

Speaker 4:                        This audio program does not establish an attorney-client relationship with Meriwether & Tharp.