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Private Investigators Shouldn't Accuse People of Crimes

Why Private Investigators Should Never Accuse People of Crimes

Movies, books, and even fascinating real-world headlines make it seem like private investigators get important moments to say, “I know who did it!” or otherwise accuse people of a crime. It’s showy, it often goes with evidence PIs worked very hard to get, and it’s a very bad idea. Accusing a person of a specific crime can quickly land a private investigator in trouble no matter how sure they are or what a client may want them to say. Here are the top reasons that PIs should always stop short of accusing someone directly.

PIs Aren’t Cops and Criminal Accusations Aren’t Their Purview

What happens when a private investigator accuses someone of a crime? Well, legally, nothing happens. A private investigator doesn’t have any authority to make any kind of arrest, other than the sorts of citizen’s arrests that are available to the public — and those are primarily reserved for stopping a crime in progress or similar situations.

So, besides creating trouble with the issues we’ll discuss below, PIs don’t really get any advantages out of making a direct accusation. In the case of serious criminal matters or a threat to someone’s life, a PI should always contact law enforcement immediately instead of trying to force a confrontation. This is also safer for the PI!

It Creates an Issue with Potential Slander and Similar Trouble

Even if an investigator is sure that they’re right about everything, accusing someone else (especially in any public way) can create legal problems. In a public venue, a PI runs a very serious risk of being sued for slander, regardless of the facts of the case: People and companies alike are anxious to protect their reputations and can be very sensitive to any potential slander. That’s even more true when crime is involved.

Even if an accusation doesn’t count as slander, many people are still very sensitive to language like this and the actions it could lead to — especially when family or money are involved, and they often are. Some people may sue both the client and the private detective in an effort to stop the investigation, claim evidence, or other tactics. It’s unwise to give any opening to do this, and an accusation can have that effect.

It Creates False Expectations

Avoid giving any client the idea that you can definitively accuse someone at the end of an investigation. First, it’s often not possible, and you don’t want to give a false expectation of a “success” where a person gets named as a culprit. Second, if you name a specific person that may encourage the client to take unwise or hasty actions. Third, neither you nor any PI is a prosecutor or judge, and you cannot legally decide what someone is guilty of, so it’s best to stay back and let the legal system do its work rather than try and take the moral high ground at this time.

Instead, present the evidence you have found and clearly describe. Draw general conclusions if it helps the client understand what’s going on. Don’t declare someone guilty if you can help it, no matter how convincing the evidence.

El Dorado can provide premium protection at an affordable price. Give El Dorado Insurance a call today to make sure you are fully covered or find out what kind of insurance needs a Private Investigator might have.

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