Following is an entry from our firm’s website originally published in September 2009 and, we think, timely.
Plenty of people – even sophisticated lawyers – sometimes ask us in the course of an investigation: “Can you get me his phone or medical records?”
The answer for anyone interested in staying out of jail is no. If you’re interested in hiring a firm that plays fast and loose with the rules, just remember that you could be held liable for the actions of your agents.
Medical records have been strictly off limits under federal law since 1996 under HIPAA, and there are state laws that may also restrict information flow.
As for phone records, despite all those ads on the Internet featuring companies that can get you someone’s cell phone records, you might want to ask them how they’re doing it before you hand over your money. Investigators used to love to pretend to be someone else when they called up a phone company and requested a duplicate copy of their cell phone bill. But since 2007, that’s against federal law too.
Put simply, you should stay clear of any investigator who uses pretexting – impersonating someone else – to obtain information. If an investigator seems vague about how he’s getting his information, back away. Nothing he’s doing for you is rocket science and it should all be easily explainable.