The Reason You Got Burned: Your Window Tint

So, you’re a private investigator on a stakeout. It’s a bright, sunny day. You’re in your car in a fixed surveillance position, and your fraudulent Subject somehow becomes aware of you, and now your client is upset. Did you get burned because of your window tint?

The Setup

As a P.I., automotive window tints are a must – it keeps you out of view from neighbors, onlookers, and of course, your Subject. And, of course, it blocks visible light from entering your car’s interior.

But before slapping some on your windows, it’s important to know your state’s laws and general info.

Each state has laws for front, backside, rear windows, windshield, and reflectivity.

When you see data on window tint, you’ll see it categorized by percentage.

Here at Gravitas Investigations, we have a rule of thumb: The lower the percentage, the DARKER the tint, and the less sunlight can come into your car. The higher the percentage, the lighter the tint, and the more sun can come in.

tint law rule of thumb

I went ahead and linked to the window tinting laws in all 50 states (click here)tint laws in 50 statesHere’s a handy little US map for the level of tint allowed from front side windows:

Let’s take Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, for example, the states where I’m licensed.

In Kentucky, the front side window must be 35%. This means you can’t have a tint that allows less than 35% of the rays on your front side window.

It’s 18% on both the rear side and rear back windows. So you can go darker tint there.

The windshield tint allows you to place a strip of tint to the top of the car manufacturer’s “AS-1” line. What is the as1 line?


The AS-1 line extends from the “AS-1” label on most motor vehicle windshields. An actual As1 label is found on the windshield and runs parallel to the top of the windshield or at about 5 inches.

Legal window tint in Ohio is at 50% on front side windows. But any level, even limo tint, is allowed on the rear side and rear back windows. So, we can go crazy there.

Indiana legal window tint is at 30%. Legal tint in Indiana for rear window tint is also 30%. Indiana window tint law also says 30% for side windows.

My two cents: if you can, get your rear side and back windows as dark as possible.

Especially if you have an SUV or minivan, when you add dark tint to the rear windows, they don’t seem to change the look of your car that much. That’s because most factory-made large vehicles come with a high level of rear tint as it is. But if you can match the front and back window tint, I tend to go that route.

It’s visually appealing, and it makes your car blend in well.

My cars also have had the 5” band across the top of the windshield. Though some installers won’t put it there if you have a “frit” band. Those tiny little dots around the edge of your windshield.

frit band

I avoid reflective tint because it stands out – it doesn’t blend in too well. I’m not against limo or blacked-out tinting. But if you’re parked for extended periods in your car in a suburban area, it might bring more attention than less.

When it comes to the law, though, I could receive a fine for my tint. I’d be willing to pay that fine. I’ve never been pulled over or cited in my 15 years of driving with an “illegal” tint. I chalk it up to the fact that police officers aren’t looking to cite someone for window tint. It’s a minor offense, and since so many already have it, it’s not worth it for them to stop me.

So, depending on how aggressive your local PD is, it’s up to you how “illegal” you want to tint your windows.

Also, some states allow exemptions. Under some state laws, private investigators can get exemptions on window tinting.

So check your local statutes and revised code for those details.

Quick Tips

Even though you have window tint, the sun can shine, exposing your silhouette.

#1Ensure you angle your car to avoid direct sun glare.

I always like to park with the sun at the back of my car if I can and not blasting through the front window. In cold months, the sun is low and can do that to you.

#2 – Find some shade wherever you park.

When I find a stationary spot and park on the street, I usually try to park where there is an overhanging tree. It doubles the effectiveness of your car’s tint and prevents visible light transmission.

#3 – I always have a front window shade to block out any sun coming in the front window and any onlookers.

I get shades that you can pop in and out quickly into your front windshield.

#4 – In a van or larger vehicle, sitting in the rear seats and using window curtains are huge too.

Passersby only pay attention to who is in the driver’s seat and don’t notice people in the back seat. Curtains block out any silhouette. Also, some minivans come stocked with mesh shades that pull up from the sliding door. So you may not even need curtains on the side windows.

#5 – If you’re renting a vehicle and don’t want to use your own to save on mileage, I always ask for an SUV or minivan.

They come stocked with factory-level side windshield tinting and back window shade. The front windows aren’t tinted, but I assume I’ll be sitting in the rear of the vehicle anyways.

Over to you…

What percentage do you have in your windows? Go ahead and assess automotive window tints for all your surveillance vehicles.

Have you ever been given a ticket for illegal window tint?

Comment below. Let me know.

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The Reason You Got Burned: Notifying (or not notifying) Local Police

Let’s talk about how you could get burned by failing to properly notify the local police while on surveillance.

This topic is gonna get some people talking from both sides.

The Setup

Should you notify the local law enforcement prior to starting surveillance, or should you not?

I’ve never come to a consensus on this topic – everyone has their own beliefs.

And that’s okay.

But the underlying issue is that the last thing I’d want a P.I. to have happen to them is that they’ll be sitting out on surveillance minding their own business, and all of sudden a cop comes rolling in behind them and blows the surveillance.

Maybe, as the cops are taking down your info or verifying your license, the Subject leaves.

Not only do they see your “suspicious” car with a cop behind it, now mentally taking a note of your car, but now you can’t follow them.

Or the neighbors know you’re in the area because of the cop, and they post a picture or comment about you being in the area on a local Facebook group or the Next Door app.

And the next thing you know, you’re burned.

I’ve had cops roll up on me all the time while on was on surveillance, even when I called them beforehand, but luckily never while my Subject left.

But, I’ve seen it happen.

The Fix

My standard policy is to call local law enforcement beforehand.

I like the idea that I can keep the police department away from my position by simply providing the dispatcher all my pertinent information, like the make and model of my car, my name, and my vehicle’s license plate number.

I typically will say something like, “Hi, this Adam Visnic, I’m a licensed private investigator, conducting surveillance in the area.”

And, just to make sure this is indeed their jurisdiction, I’ll give them a nearby address, not the Subject’s address (ever), and ask if that’s their jurisdiction.

If they say it’s theirs, I’ll tell them generalities about how long I’ll be there that day and 100% get their dispatcher ID or name.

It’s always good to have that for reference because if a cop rolls up, you can state exactly who you talked to at their office.

If it’s not, ask them who you should call.

That should do it.

I’m of the mindset that you get more flies with honey rather than vinegar and try to put a good phone voice on for them.

I wouldn’t want to pull the old “mind your business” card and tick them off.

Especially now, I just don’t want to give them a reason to check on me.

You might expect a drive-by of a cop and sometimes a quick glance or wave, but hopefully, that’s it.

On the other side of the aisle, I also understand why you wouldn’t notify cops.

They might know why you’re in the area. Maybe in a rural area or any small town, the local LEOs are related to your Subject or they hang out with them and are friends.

Or they know everyone, and they’re pissed you’re in the area on their turf.

I can count on one hand, in the dozens and dozens of cops I’ve spoken to that were legit A+ assholes.

But, many of the PIs who are watching this were former police and were never that way.

99% are nice and understanding of our job.

Some do just have it out for us, and I do know a lot of PIs who have a grievance against talking with cops.

I’ve had one cop total ask me to step out of the car, and frisk me, because I didn’t call them beforehand. One in 10 years.

The Choice

So at the end of the day, it’s really up to you.

If you do interact with a cop, be cordial and respectful as always.

If you’re carrying a concealed weapon, let them know ASAP.

And, trade business cards with them just so you know with who you had contact.

Leave them with a good taste in their mouth, because there is a chance you’ll be out there again.

As a rule, I’ll never tell the cops if they ask, who I’m watching. I’ll say instead of let’s say a workers’ comp case, it’ll become a cheating spouse case in the area.

If they get fussy, I’ll say simply (deep sigh) “I wish I could, but the case is backed by the attorney-client privilege. I promise I’d divulge that If I could.”

Over to you…

What do you do on surveillance?

Call the local police or not?

Comment below and let me know.

The Reason You Got Burned: Following Too Closely

The Reason You Got Burned: Following Too Closely

Have you ever had your Subject look in the rearview mirror at you?

Slow down on the highway?

Do a U-turn right in front of you?

You might be burned and it may have been because you were tailing your Subject too closely.

The Setup

As a disclaimer, if you’re not licensed as a private investigator, please don’t go out and start following people. Just cause you watched this, doesn’t give you the right to tail someone. Serious consequences will follow if you get caught.

Additionally, this is for training and practice purposes only – just use it for entertainment.

Watch the video above for details on how to follow your Subject on surveillance.

The Four Big Takeaways

First, use a buffer car. Avoiding your Subject’s ability to see your car’s profile in their rearview mirror is huge. A buffer car is a car between you and your Subject. Use them whenever you can.

Second, to avoid staying behind or getting too close, use other lanes. And then circle back as I did.

Third, don’t stop unnecessarily just because they did. The guy pulled a u-turn, and just parked in front of his house. The temptation was to stop, capture some video, and perhaps make it obvious that he’s being followed. Instead, I proceeded onward, knowing he was parking and allowed him to exit out of view.

Fourth, know your map. Have a GPS or your phone mounted on your dash up so you know the lay of the land. Is your Subject turning down a no-outlet street? Getting near the highway? Heading back home? You’ll need to know in advance, and knowing the roads in your city and state is a must.

Over to You…

What ways have avoided getting burned on mobile surveillance?

What methods have worked for you?

Comment below. Let me know.

The Reason You Got Burned: The Neighbors

The Setup

If you’ve ever done surveillance, many times it’s not the Subject who ends up burning you – it’s the neighbors.

Wait, what?

In this post, let’s talk about:

The Reason You Got Burned

The Neighbors

Legal disclaimer. Never construe anything I say to be legal advice. I’m not a lawyer. Also, personal disclaimer: you don’t have to believe a damn word I say. You should have your own opinions on how to conduct surveillance and never rely on mine.

Surveillance is an art form.

And I’ll back up anyone who copies or steals my ideas. Go for it!

But start to develop your way of doing things.

I made these posts and videos for my investigators, the ones who work for me. It’s training for them. But if you gather any value, knowledge, or like the content, keep reading.


You’re out on surveillance, parked in a perfect spot, staking out your Subject. You’re in a tinted-out vehicle, maybe sitting in the back, maybe in the front. But you’re parked in front of one of your Subject’s neighbor’s houses. After a few hours, a resident runs out of the house and knocks on your window.

Pop quiz, hotshot. What do you do??!?

Well, it’s easy to get hostile. The neighbor might already be that way. But, I’m of the mind to never get confrontational or power-hungry with neighbors. Again,

You get more flies with honey, not vinegar.

As we’ve said in previous posts and videos about notifying the police, be cordial and respectful. With neighbors though, the goal is to use some “verbal judo” on them. Use a ruse or guise, to get them to go away and leave them thinking nothing of it.

But, be nice and respectful. Avoid saying “mind your own business,” because you know they won’t. It’s their neighborhood after all, and magnifying things could lead down a bad road. The exact pretense can be up to you. There are countless ones you could use.

First…never impersonate an officer of the law. This should be in all of your licensing bylaws as it is. We in OH and KY cannot carry a badge, because a person could interpret it as a police badge.

Successful (and legal) Pretexts

In rural areas, I’ll say I’m a contractor for a trucking company. With an “official” clipboard in hand, I’ll look the neighbor straight in the eye, and say I’ve been hired to look for semis that have used this route against our company policy. We’re getting noise complaints from ones using their engine brake. And then ask the neighbor if they’ve heard any loud semis.

Putting the question back on them takes them by surprise. You’ll not only see people believe the ruse but say that they’ve heard loud engines before – chances are they actually have. People want to believe and if you appear harmless, they’ll tend to agree. Then assure them that the police know you’re in the area and you should be there the whole day and a few days in the future

In other situations, I’ll say I’m a private investigator, but never let on exactly what I’m doing.

I’ll change the story up and say it’s a confidential matter but the term we use is it’s a domestic case. Make sure they don’t think it’s their next-door neighbors, but someone way a few blocks away and they might pass by this spot. Let them fill in the blanks with their imagination on who it is. A lot of times they’ll play detective themselves and think it’s such and such who had an affair years ago…

Again, assure them, the cops know you’re there, and there’s no need for alarm.

A big key is to be ready for any situation. A dead giveaway is if you start stuttering over your words and avoiding eye contact.

Make the story believable.

Additionally, park on public property. I’ve had two cops allude to criminal trespassing charges because I was on private property.

But I’ll always park on the public street or the easement and never on private property unless I can help it.

Easement in orange

The last thing we want is to get the whole neighborhood heated up and then let on to the Subject. We’ve all heard horror stories with the Next Door app or your neighborhood’s Facebook group.

And with these pretexts, use your creativity here… come up with something unique to the situation and have it ready. If I’m in a construction area or downtown, I’ll get a hard hat and safety vest. Put it in the front window. There’s always construction going on downtown. You’ll fit in.

Play the part. Have a little fun with it.

The Takeaway

What ways can you play the part?

What pretexts have worked for you?

Comment below and let me know.

The Reason You Got Burned: Parking Too Close

The Setup

So, you got burned and you don’t know why.

Was it because you parked too close to your Subject’s house?

I’ve seen thousands of hours of video footage taken by private investigators on covert surveillance.

I was both the regional manager and lead investigator for two different companies.

So that meant in addition to my own footage, I was getting a glimpse of the work from private investigators (PIs) in California, Florida, Texas, and every in between.

And yes, I’ve also been burned before.

The times I was burned happened many years ago, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I was burned.

But starting in 2005, I did surveillance myself in a dozen different states anywhere from 40 to 65 hours per week for ten years.

That’s roughly 20,000 hours of surveillance I’ve personally conducted.

And though my main job is running my own PI firm with nine investigators underneath me, I still see PIs getting burned.

But there was no video or piece of content that told me how not to get burned.

Or if there was, there were no tactics that concretely told me how to combat that incorrect operation.

I’m going to give all the ways I’ve avoided getting burned. And, all the recommendations I’ve given to my investigators to not get burned themselves.

In bite-sized segments.

And, obviously, since it’s on YouTube, I’m giving this to you for free.

This is part one of a 20 part segment where I explain the many ways a surveillance operative can get burned.

Look for part 2 of this series, The Reason You Got Burned: Driving Past the Subject’s House Too Slowly or Too Many Times. So, on to the reason.

The Reason You Got Burned

You parked your vehicle too close to the Subject’s house.

You’ve got your perfect surveillance vehicle, window tint, and you’re ready to capture all the Subject’s fraudulent activities.

But, it’s the first day, you’re a rookie, or you’re way too aggressive unnecessarily.

You are sitting either directly in front of the Subject’s house or within 1-2 houses, where the Subject can either look out his front window or walk out to the front porch and see you sitting in your car.

This is number one for a reason.

This is one of the top reasons PIs get burned – they are parked too close!!

I’ve seen it happen to new investigators way too often.

They may have some idea how to do surveillance from movies, you know, where the car is way too close. That’s Hollywood people.

Keep this in mind – you don’t have to see every single thing that happens on the property.

If it’s valuable to you, you’ll see it and capture it on video.

Especially when there is nothing going on the first day of a surveillance operation.

Park further away from the residence.

Consider choosing a route of egress or the most probable route of departure.

Don’t park in a cul-de-sac or within a few houses of the Subject.

If you’re paying attention to your Subject’s house and vehicles and need to into a better position, you can.

Start further away, though.

Your camera should have enough zoom to get some long-distance footage from far away.

If you don’t have a camera, look for one with at least 20x optical zoom and 50x digital zoom.

Links to some cameras in the description:

If you need to get close to obtain video of your Subject working in the yard, cutting grass, etc, you can.

But don’t blow it just to get video of your Subject pulling in empty garbage cans.

Have some good binoculars as well to make sure you can see from further away.

The Takeaway

If you’re in an urban area, you can be a bit closer. With houses and apartments stacked on top of one another, you’re going to need to get a good look at the people coming and going and there may be a lot.

In a suburban area, you can afford to stay 100 yards away at least. So a football field. With good binoculars and digital zoom, you can see all the good stuff.

Rural area, really far away.