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Do This, Don’t Do That: Private Investigator Best Practices

There are plenty of misconceptions about what a private investigator can legally do within the limits of their job when they’re bound by court restrictions.

Are you considering hiring a private investigator?

A growing number of people who are seeking the help of private investigators.

More private investigators are employed every year. The number is expected to increase by up to 11 percent over the next ten years.

You’d think that the people would know what private investigators are allowed to do and not do legally.

Well, you’ll be shocked to discover that many people don’t have a clue. It may be news to some people that Sherlock Holmes isn’t actually real – he’s fictional!

Do you want to learn more about what can a private investigator do? Check out our blog post below. Let’s get started!

1. Don’t Wiretap Without Consent 

We’ve heard a lot of about wiretapping in the news recently.

But, it’s actually a Federal crime to wiretap without the permission of those involved.

This law can only be overcome with the approval of a Federal court. A private investigator is extremely unlikely to attain this approval.

In 12 U.S. states, private investigators are allowed to wiretap people’s phones with the consent of those involved.

While in the other 38 states, they are permitted to wiretap with the permission of only one party.

Without the consent of those involved, the private investigator could be charged with committing a crime.

Any evidence gathered through illegal means could be rejected by the court. This could be regarded as having been attained through illegal methods.

2. Don’t Record Private Conversations

Private investigators shouldn’t record private conversations without the consent of those involved. If neither party is aware that they’re being recorded, then this is not permitted.

Why is this the case? This law is in place to stop people from hiring a private investigator to bug someone else’s home or workplace illegally.

However, it’s worth noting that the laws around recording conversations can vary according to the state.

For example, in some states, it is allowed to record if just one party is aware. By contrast, in other states, all the parties must consent to the recording of the conversation.

And yet, that doesn’t mean that private investigators aren’t allowed to listen to private conversations. This is fine as long as they take place in a public space. It’s not against the law to eavesdrop.

3. Don’t Trespass on Other People’s Property

The law is the same for a burglar and a private investigator. It is always illegal to break and enter into private property without the permission of a court.

The private investigator requires the permission of the owner of the property to enter someone else’s home. The same applies to personal mail or private phone messages.

Therefore, private investigators are always required to get the consent of the owner before entering a home. If the private investigator is caught breaking the law on breaking and entering, they could be charged.

4. Don’t Hack Protected Information

Private investigators are normally hired by people to gather information. However, there are limits under the law what they’re able to achieve.

For example, protected information cannot be legally obtained by a private investigator.

This would include bank statements or private emails. And yet, they’re permitted to obtain information about which bank someone’s registered with.

Another example is that a private investigator can find out whether someone’s got a criminal record. However, they’re unable to get access to examine the criminal record.

5. Don’t Attempt to Make Arrests 

Even though private investigators can be hired to investigate a criminal case, they cannot make a lawful arrest. This is reserved for law enforcement officers.

Nevertheless, the private investigator is permitted to make a citizen’s arrest. This is usually only allowed if the private investigator witnesses someone commit a crime.

The capacity to make a citizens arrest is nothing special. This is within the rights of any other citizens as well.

However, some private investigators have close relationships with the local police. As a result, this gives them even more leeway on these grounds.

6. Do Run a License Plate

There has been a general rise in the number of police departments making use of license plate readers. As well as law enforcement officers, private investigators are actually allowed to run a license plate.

However, they’re only permitted to do this if they have a justified cause. What constitutes a justified cause?

There has to be some evidence which supports the gathering of further information through such means.

In court, the private investigator may be required to demonstrate reasonable suspicion. This is in order to prevent the privacy of citizens being undermined.

7. Do Gather Information 

Private investigators are good at collecting information about individuals and organizations. The type of information can vary significantly.

Examples of information include the following:

  • Address
  • Whereabouts
  • Birthdate
  • Employment history
  • Property holdings

This is the bread and butter of the private investigator.

8. Do Search Through Someone’s Trash

It’s sometimes a dirty job being a private investigator.

When someone throws away their trash, it’s no longer owned by them. But, the trash also has to be located away from the person’s private property.

Therefore, a private investigator is within their rights to trawl through it. You never know what you’re going to find in someone’s trash. This could include anything from bank statements to letters to lovers.

9. Do Conduct a Stakeout

This is the stuff of movies! Private investigators certainly use any means within the law to gather information for their clients.

This could definitely include conducting a stakeout. They would be allowed to track the movements of someone throughout the day.

However, surveillance is only permitted in public areas.

10. Do Interviews With People

Private investigators also gather information through interviews with people. This could be the friends, colleagues or family members of the person they’re investigating.

Private investigators are usually trained in interviewing techniques. They are extremely good at getting information out of people. As well as making judgments about the person’s character and trustworthiness.

Private Investigator Best Practices

There are so many misconceptions about what a private investigator can and can’t do under the law. If you’re considering hiring a private investigator, then it’s important to know what to expect.

Do you want to discover more about private investigator best practices? Check out our blog post on the tools to help close cases faster.

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