Skip to content

What Can A Private Investigator Do and Not Do?

looking around, investigator
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest

Things that a Private Investigator Can and Not Do

A private investigator is a person who is hired by an individual, an agency or a corporation to gather information regarding another person, business entity, group of people or even a location. Certain rules and regulations have to be followed by investigating professionals to ensure subjects under investigation are not unduly affected by the investigator’s activity that may overlap local legal and state laws. In this article, we would broadly discuss the investigators’ responsibilities, what they can and cannot do, and more.

The Need to Hire Private Investigators 

Private investigators are trained professionals who help individuals, organizations, and business entities investigate a person, firm, location, or business. To perform this task, private investigators can follow innovative and productive investigation and observation techniques. But the techniques they follow must be confined to the defined laws and regulations of the concerned state or region. You can hire a private investigator to investigate a business, spouse’s behavior, observe the owner’s property for any threats, suspicious business activities, and countless other situations.

Can Anyone Hire a Private Investigator?

Any individual who requires observing or investigating the agency or a person for whatever reasons can hire a private investigator. Mostly every civil and criminal case attorney hires them as their observations and evidence they collect comes in handy during the judgment of the case. Investigative professionals can be hired by individual defense services, Criminal investigating agencies, pre-employment and post-employment screening, forensics services, and lots more.

Whether you doubt your partner cheating on you, your business partner defrauding you, want to conduct a workplace investigation, suspect insurance fraud, doubt the executor of the trust of misusing funds, financial fraud, hidden asset investigation, or for any other reasons, a private investigator can thoroughly investigate the case to get you relevant and court-admissible evidence to help you get justice.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Private Investigator

The following are the roles and responsibilities of a private investigator.

  • Collects comprehensive background information about a person or business through various sources, not usually available to a layman.
  • They follow various observation techniques, including searching public and private records, data aggregators, criminal and litigation history, financial records, online activities, social media history, etc.
  • Licensed private investigators provide a comprehensive report as per their observation with court-admissible evidence.
  • Investigative consultants can directly interact with the people under observation.
  • A private investigator aid in offering security services.
  • Take necessary tactics for identifying a missing person.
  • They can also perform an undercover/covert investigation.

Private investigators can investigate businesses, corporate houses, individuals, employees, cybercrimes, criminal activities, etc. As each state has its own defined rules, the investigators must adhere to the state laws to avoid legal disputes and jeopardize the client’s case. They need to follow a standard code of ethics followed across the entire industry in private investigations.

Can a Private Investigator Take Action against Someone?

A private investigator is not a police officer or law enforcement personnel. They work on behalf of a person or an agency to gather information and record them to create a report for submission to the clients and do so discreetly in most cases.

Suppose a private investigator identifies someone engaged in wrongdoing or any unlawful activity during an investigation. In that case, a private investigator can detain the suspect until a police officer arrives, inform law enforcement authorities or the client. But, they cannot issue an arrest warrant or arrest a person or group. They cannot sentence the accused to jail. Instead, they can produce a comprehensive report backed by solid evidence that helps police officials and the court take necessary action.

Is The Information Gathered by the Private Investigators Acceptable in Court?

Definitely yes! Private investigators cannot directly arrest the criminals. However, they have the right to make a police officer or any law enforcement officers take action against someone by producing all the required information and evidence such as photographs, surveillance videos, or some other physical documents collected during the investigation process.

The private investigators have to ensure they keep the law enforcement officials and the client in the loop before taking any action because private investigators are bound by the law of confidentiality with the clients. They cannot directly produce the report to the court without the client’s consent.

Do Private Investigators Need to Follow a Certain Dress Code?

Private investigators are not law enforcing officers. So there are no prescribed uniform or symbolizing badges for these investigators. Most state laws do not encourage investigators to follow a dress code. If they pertain to any dress code, they may be penalized legally. Investigators must possess minimum educational qualifications along with certifications on criminals’ investigation programs.

The investigators must possess a license. The eligibility criteria and process for getting a license vary from state to state. Any person who hires a private investigator must check if the PI is licensed as it entails the investigator is authorized to conduct broad and intrusive investigations.

Is Infringing Legal for a Private Investigator?

In movies and web series, it is common for a private investigator to break a house of a subject when they are not at home, or they may enter the home, office, and access lockers and other property without consent. In a real-life scenario, it never happens. Breaking the subject’s house is not under state laws. Unless the house owner permits them, the private investigator cannot enter the subject’s or suspect’s house or breach the subject’s privacy in any other way.

Can a Private Investigator Tap Someone’s Phone?

A private investigator must collect evidence by doing on-field surveillance, taking photographs, videography, accessing public and private records, criminal and litigation history, interview with other parties involved, and more. At times, a private investigator may use advanced technology to monitor online and social media activities or record phone calls with consent.

However, all these activities can only be performed by licensed private investigators, and there are certain guidelines that the investigators have to follow without exception. When the private investigator is involved in a phone conversation with the subject, he/she can record the conversation without the knowledge of the subject. It is called one-party consent. They can also inform the subject that their conversation will be recorded before using a recording device. This type of recording is known as two-party consent.

In both types, the investigators must be a part of the conversation. Some states allow one-party consent type recording, whereas another state may require two-party consent. Professional and licensed investigators are well aware of the local laws and guidelines and ensure the investigation is conducted accordingly without breaching any laws or attracting litigations.

Can Private Investigators Take Photos Through Windows of a Home? 

A private investigator can follow the subject under observation and take photos if necessary, without the knowledge of the subject. But they cannot take photos through window openings, house gardens, backyards, and other private places. The private investigators cannot breach the suspect’s privacy or cross the line that attacks the subject’s constitutional rights. They can take only essential photos that act as proof for handling the subject under police custody. Even if they suspect a subject as a criminal, they should take photographs appropriately without interfering with the land’s law. Any violations may jeopardize the case entirely and would attract severe penalties and even lawsuits.

Can Private Investigator Hack into Online Accounts?

With rapid advancements in new technologies, most private investigators are accustomed to investigative tech and are well-versed in conducting online searches and investigations. People nowadays use social networking platforms for posting photographs, posts, and lots more. The investigators can view the subject’s Facebook posts and photographs.

However, they cannot hack the subject’s social media accounts, e-mail accounts, and other online accounts to gain access to collect information under any circumstances. They also must not hack, steal, or seize mobile phones, tablets, notebooks, laptops, and other electronic gadgets to gather information. Such information, even if it may seem relevant to the case, is not court-admissible.

Can Private Investigator Obtain Confidential Information Without Consent?

Banks accounts, phone details, and other financial information are regarded as confidential information. A private investigator cannot get the details of that information without taking permission from the subject. For example, private investigators can gain information about which bank the subject has opened the account. But they should not collect information like account balance, bank transfer records, bank statements, etc., without the subject’s consent. It is not that the private investigators must never see confidential information about the case. They need to take prior permission from the subject or anyone in authority to give consent before they do that.

What Do Private Investigators Actually Do?

By now, you are familiar with what a private investigator should not do when investigating an individual or a business entity. Keeping all these factors in mind, a private investigator can observe, gather information, and submit a report to law enforcement officials or clients within a stipulated period.

The private investigators can gain information about the subject’s business, property, the places they visit frequently, house address, phone number, etc. They can also collect personal information like if they are married, have any illegal/hidden relationship or assets, about their family, criminal and litigation records, siblings, social media accounts, their friends, neighbors, business activity, and lots more.

The private investigators can access public databases like voters list, criminal records, marriage records, license details, private databases, etc. They can inquire about the subject from his/her friends, relatives, colleagues, and family members to know about their conduct or even take video witness testimony. After doing a detailed and thorough investigation, a private investigator must prepare a report and submit it to the client, which can be an individual, business entity, attorney, detective agency, organization, and even law enforcement agencies.

The information must be legitimate, and the investigation process must follow the location-specific private investigation related laws, rules, and regulations. An undercover investigator is generally hired to observe any illegal drugs or black money transaction. An undercover investigator can have a hidden camera in their pen, tie, or other devices to take photos in a very careful manner to ensure the subject cannot suspect what is going on.

A licensed private investigator knows exactly what they can and not do. They ensure they collect relevant information legally to help build a strong case against the accused and that their evidence will be valid in court. If you have any more questions about what a private investigator can and not do or want to hire one, give us a call, and our experienced investigative consultants would be more than happy to assist you. Call us today for a free consultation or schedule an appointment with us by calling us at 1(855)577-4846.

Share this post with your friends

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin