Professionals working as Private Investigators today enjoy a strong career outlook in a constantly evolving field with ever-expanding job opportunities. A “day in the life” of a Private Investigator often includes great diversity, from in-office research to field work to giving courtroom testimony.
This last aspect is one reason why it is so important to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s when it comes to surveillance protocols. One lapse in judgment or legal mishap and the investigator could be held legally liable….or worse.
One area which requires particular caution is when using mobile surveillance, such as while driving to tail an individual under investigation. In this post, learn more about what a Private Investigator can and cannot do while conducting mobile surveillance.
NOTE: This post offers general information on mobile surveillance. However, be aware that each state is permitted to set its own legal guidelines, including for whether a working Private Investigator must carry a valid license or not.
Mobile Surveillance Legal No-Nos
At this time, a Private Investigator cannot do any of the following while conducting mobile surveillance:
– Install a GPS tracking or audio/video recording device on a car without prior consent. Here, what matters is getting the consent from the owner of the vehicle, not from the driver of the vehicle.
– Run a license plate check on a vehicle without a legally permissible reason. Legally permissible reasons might include locating a missing person, carrying out a background check, gathering data for use in a legal case.
– Trespass on private property to conduct surveillance. The law will not permit trespassing on private property at any time. The legal rule of thumb is, the information collected must be publicly visible to any passersby.
– Pretexting. It is illegal to pose as someone else to gain access to private property or to collect information.
Avoiding Dangers, Pitfalls, and Perils While Doing Mobile Surveillance
After reading the list above, it may sound like a Private Investigator can’t do much while conducting mobile surveillance. But the real truth is that mobile surveillance must be done in such a way that any evidence collected will be admissible in court, if that need ever arises.
Reasons to abide by the law at all times when conducting mobile surveillance include these:
– If information is collected unlawfully, it will not be admissible in court and the client may be reluctant to pay for services rendered.
– If surveillance is conducted unlawfully, it could result in legal action against the Private Investigator and/or their employer.
– If surveillance is conducted unlawfully, it could result in revocation of the Private Investigator’s license to practice (in states requiring licensure).
– If surveillance is not done carefully, it could place the Private Investigator in harm’s way.
Most private investigators pride themselves on conducting investigations in a legal and expert fashion, which is to everyone’s benefit.
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[CLICK HERE FOR PART 2: The Fine Line Between Legal and Illegal Surveillance]