A recent article in the New York Times reported a case in which a private investigator was convicted of one count of conspiracy for using his connections in the NYPD to obtain personal information about potential witnesses in criminal prosecutions for which he had been retained to work as a defense investigator. The P.I., Joseph P. Dwyer, was a retired New York police officer who paid friends on the force to illegally access the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, a repository of information restricted to those working for law enforcement or governmental security agencies.

ncic-databaseThe NCIC database was created by the FBI in 1967 for the purpose of facilitating information sharing between various law enforcement branches, including state and local agencies. The database acts as a centralized information system for a variety of records including missing persons, protection orders and supervised release records, known gang members, wanted persons, sex offenders as well as records around property ownership (cars, boats, guns, etc.).

In his zeal to provide his clients with the best possible information to bolster their criminal defense cases, Dwyer himself was found to have broken the law by paying a police sergeant to gain access to the NCIC database. This wasn’t necessary, and although Mr. Dwyer seems to have been acting out of a sincere interest in helping his clients he took the lazy route and wound up in trouble. Private eyes aren’t held to the same restrictions as many commercial background check providers and have access to a wide range of records of all types.

While none of the investigators at Baldwin have the authority to access the NCIC database, we’ve had the results of our criminal background checks compared to NCIC results by attorneys that do have lawful access and in each case our data has shown to be every bit as complete and accurate as the NCIC’s.

Read more about cases in which BLI assisted in criminal defense investigations.