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mreilly19
09-19-2012, 06:52 AM
Hi all, my story is set in L.A. in 1992 and involves a couple of private detectives, one good and one bad. I have some questions regarding the plausibility of some of the procedures I've outlined for them.

The Good Detective: He digs up background information on several characters, reporting to my MC details about these people and their backgrounds. Pretty straightforward stuff I envision he got from public records, newspaper articles and so forth. What concerns me is a scene in which my MC wants to trace a license plate on a motorcycle to find out the identity of the owner (the MC doesn't want to go to the cops since he figures the cops won't tell him who it is and he wants to investigate on his own). He asks the good private eye to check it out and let him know the identity of the plate owner. Is this possible/realistic? Even there was an ethical issue involved, let's say my MC offered a sufficient bribe for the information - could this detective offer the details or would that pose too much of a risk to his private eye license to be worthwhile?

The Bad: This is a private eye working on the wrong side of the law. His goal is to try to rip off my wealthy MC. He researches my MC's life and finds out his history and address, breaks into my MC's apartment/car and taps the phone line/plants voice activated tape recorders, finds out my MC has a registered handgun in his name and tries to get access to my MC's banking records. I guess the 2 factors that I wonder about are: could this detective find out my MC has a registered handgun, and is it possible for him to tap my MC's phone so as to be able to listen in on all incoming/outgoing calls from a nearby spot? This is a key plot point and I would prefer to have this detective eavesdropping with a handset or something similar rather than repeatedly visiting the MC's apartment to retrieve audio tapes.

Thanks for any advice!

Dani
09-19-2012, 05:15 PM
Hi all, my story is set in L.A. in 1992 and involves a couple of private detectives, one good and one bad. I have some questions regarding the plausibility of some of the procedures I've outlined for them.

The Good Detective: He digs up background information on several characters, reporting to my MC details about these people and their backgrounds. Pretty straightforward stuff I envision he got from public records, newspaper articles and so forth. What concerns me is a scene in which my MC wants to trace a license plate on a motorcycle to find out the identity of the owner (the MC doesn't want to go to the cops since he figures the cops won't tell him who it is and he wants to investigate on his own). He asks the good private eye to check it out and let him know the identity of the plate owner. Is this possible/realistic? Even there was an ethical issue involved, let's say my MC offered a sufficient bribe for the information - could this detective offer the details or would that pose too much of a risk to his private eye license to be worthwhile?

The Bad: This is a private eye working on the wrong side of the law. His goal is to try to rip off my wealthy MC. He researches my MC's life and finds out his history and address, breaks into my MC's apartment/car and taps the phone line/plants voice activated tape recorders, finds out my MC has a registered handgun in his name and tries to get access to my MC's banking records. I guess the 2 factors that I wonder about are: could this detective find out my MC has a registered handgun, and is it possible for him to tap my MC's phone so as to be able to listen in on all incoming/outgoing calls from a nearby spot? This is a key plot point and I would prefer to have this detective eavesdropping with a handset or something similar rather than repeatedly visiting the MC's apartment to retrieve audio tapes.

Thanks for any advice!

I'm not sure if I'm remembering properly, but iirc, in the 90's before all the privacy laws came in to place, I believe (not certain) that you could bring a license plate number to the DMV office and get a name/address for someone for a fee. (In fact, now that I've looked this up, you can still do that: http://lifehacker.com/5900349/learn-the-identity-of-nearly-any-car-owner-with-their-license-plate-number-and-a-simple-google-search)

As for the registered gun, I can think of one way that he would find out--you mentioned he broke in? Couldn't he find the gun then?

Sorry I can't help with number three. No idea what equipment was like in 92. =/ I imagine that he could put the recording device outside the home, though? And pick up the tapes there, rather than breaking in every time?

mreilly19
09-20-2012, 04:36 AM
I think you're right; it does seem to be the case that the general public can obtain this information and back then it must have been easier. I think I can safely have my MC delegate this to the private eye without it being out of bounds.

The registered gun won't be found by the bad guy breaking into my MC's apartment since the MC has it on him at all times. :-)

As for voice-activated tape recorders, those were available back then. I think the notion of putting the recorder outside the apartment is a great one - in fact, I wrote a scene in which the building super THOUGHT he saw someone going into my MC's apartment while the MC was out (didn't confront the person since he assumed it was a friend). The super thought perhaps it was the apartment ABOVE my MC, an element I introduced to make the eyewitness account seem unreliable. As I considered your reply, I realized it would work perfectly to have the bad guy breaking into the apartment above my MC where he'd planted the tape recorder under the sink after running a wire down to the MC's apartment. Thanks for the inspiration! :-)


I'm not sure if I'm remembering properly, but iirc, in the 90's before all the privacy laws came in to place, I believe (not certain) that you could bring a license plate number to the DMV office and get a name/address for someone for a fee. (In fact, now that I've looked this up, you can still do that: http://lifehacker.com/5900349/learn-the-identity-of-nearly-any-car-owner-with-their-license-plate-number-and-a-simple-google-search)

As for the registered gun, I can think of one way that he would find out--you mentioned he broke in? Couldn't he find the gun then?

Sorry I can't help with number three. No idea what equipment was like in 92. =/ I imagine that he could put the recording device outside the home, though? And pick up the tapes there, rather than breaking in every time?