The Risks Of Hiring A Private Investigator

What Are The Risks Of Hiring A Private Investigator For The Client

The most important question to ask when you are considering hiring a Private Investigator is, What are the Risks of hiring a Private Investigator? That is what we are going to answer in this blog post. We hope that you will find it valuable.

Financial Risks

As the employer of the PI, you will be taking on the financial risk in most cases. Private investigators generally charge an upfront retainer. Be sure to ask Private Investigators what their Initial retainer is before starting an investigation. That way you can know what financial risk you are taking on.

Costs and Potential For Ongoing Investigations

Investigations can wind up being unpredictable. A straightforward case could become complex, requiring more time and resources than anticipated. This can lead to escalating costs not included in the initial 

Shared Responsibility For The Investigator’s Actions

If a PI gives you evidence through illegal means, such as unauthorized wiretapping (see more about wiretapping here). Trespassing, or violating privacy laws, are also likely to be inadmissible in court. 

You may be held liable for paying the PI for the illegal evidence. This could also undermine your case.

The Emotional Impact Of Discoveries

Most of the time people need a Private Investigator, there are lots of emotions at play. In the case of a cheating husband, you will want a PI who can understand what you are going through and is going to help you get the evidence you need while guiding you through the next steps. 

Our Private Investigators at Nolan Enterprises will share their findings with you in an understanding and professional manner. We have done this many times and can guide you through the process of any investigation.

Potential For Blackmail Or Extortion

While it’s not a good thought, but many Private Investigators will try to blackmail you or extort you into paying them more money. Ensure that you have talked to your PI on the phone and that you feel comfortable working with them. Do not send any money without going over a contract with clear deliverables.

Real Quick

What is a Private Investigator

A private Investigator is someone licensed by the state to conduct surveillance for investigation purposes. Private Investigators are civilians who have a background and training in law.  They can help gather evidence that is not available to the general public.

Private Investigators prepare comprehensive reports that outline findings, evidence, and recommendations. They will work with management and legal counsel to determine appropriate disciplinary actions or legal remedies. Implementing preventive measures to mitigate future risks and strengthen internal controls.

Reports include journals, photography, videography, and any records that can be used as evidence. Legal considerations regarding confidentiality and privacy laws are taken into account.

Ok, Now back to the risks of hiring a private investigator…

Legality of Hiring a Private Investigator

Maybe you have wondered if it is legal to hire a private investigator. Or, Is it illegal to hire a private investigator? It is legal for anyone over 18 years old to hire a private detective or private investigator for any reason. 

Private Investigators may not always have the best reputation when it comes to movies and books. But they are not illegal to hire. You will want to make sure your PI is licensed in the state where they will be doing their surveillance. Not having an active license in the state they are working in can cause them to get in trouble with the law. 

You can get into trouble with the law if you are using evidence that was not gathered legally by a licensed Investigator.

Licensing requirements for private investigators

These are the licensing requirements in California, New York, and Texas for Private Investigators.

In California

  • Age: 18 or older.
  • Experience: 3 years (6,000 hours) of compensated work experience in investigative work.
  • Education: A relevant degree can substitute for some experience.
  • Exam: Must pass a written exam administered by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS).
  • Background Check: Must pass a criminal history background check through the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
  • Insurance/Bonding: Must have a $5,000 surety bond.

In New York

  • Age: 25 or older.
  • Experience: 3 years of experience in investigation or law enforcement, or a combination of education and experience.
  • Exam: No exam is required.
  • Background Check: Must pass a background check.
  • Insurance/Bonding: Must have a $10,000 surety bond.

In Texas

  • Age: 18 or older.
  • Experience: 3 years of investigative experience or a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field plus one year of experience.
  • Exam: Must pass a written exam.
  • Background Check: Must pass a criminal background check through the Texas Department of Public Safety.
  • Insurance/Bonding: Must have liability insurance.

State-specific laws

In the US each state will have different laws concerning Private Investigators. If your case will involve crossing state borders or investigating across multiple states you should let your PI know. Private Investigators are required to carry active licenses for each state they are collecting evidence.

International Considerations

Hiring an international private investigator may be necessary in a small number of cases. You will have to ensure that the investigator you are considering is licensed to work in the countries and states they will be gathering evidence. 

It would be best to hire an investigator who has successfully worked on cases in the countries and states you will need.

In general, it is very rare to need an international investigator.

Privacy Violations

It is important to understand, that private investigators must be licensed. Even so, PIs are still considered civilians and must not break any privacy laws. 

This is why private investigators must have a thorough understanding of the law. Because if an Investigator acquires evidence or surveillance illegally, they are legally responsible for their actions. 

This can make private Investigators’ job more difficult because they have to gather evidence that is accurate and can fit their client’s case. But they are not allowed to violate privacy laws.

Private Investigators Gathering Evidence While Trespassing

This should go without saying, Private Investigators are not allowed to trespass to gather information for cases.

All evidence should be gathered legally and ethically. 

Hire a private investigator who has a proven track record and plenty of reviews. That way you will know that they will not trespass or gather evidence illegally.

Illegal surveillance could be surveillance that was gathered while a PI was trespassing, violating privacy laws, or just breaking the law. 

Illegal Evidence For Private Investigators To Get

Photos or Videos that are taken when the suspect is within the privacy of their own home or if they have reasonable expectation of privacy is 

Photos or videos are considered illegal if they are taken when the suspect expects to have privacy. If evidence (Photos or videos) is taken while someone is in the privacy of their own home that is illegal.

Essentially any evidence that is taken when the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy is generally illegal. 

Private Investigators Wiretapping To Get Evidence

Wiretapping is used to listen into someone’s private conversation in hopes that you can get audible confession of a crime. Wiretapping laws can vary from country to country. In generally wiretapping without consent is illegal. Illegal wiretapping can lead to penalties such as criminal charges, fines, and imprisonment.

Unlike the movies, wiretapping is illegal and should not be attempted except in very rare circumstances evolving law enforcement. Making it off-limits to civilians and Private investigators must adhere to the same laws as citizens. 

If a private investigator illegally wiretaps, it can result in criminal charges, as well as getting their license revoked.

There are alternatives to wiretapping that can get you tangible evidence for cases. The good is that they are legal too.

Consider reaching out to us at (323) – 875 – 3000 for alternatives to wiretapping. We can give you peace of mind knowing that you are getting legal evidence for your cases.

Harassment Concerns for Private Investigators

Let’s talk about harassment concerns about hiring a private investigator. 

Is hiring a private investigator harassment?

Some people might be asking. Is hiring a private investigator harassment?

In general, No. Hiring a Private Investigator is not considered harassment. The person who is hiring a private investigator is safe from being investigated for harassment. However, a Private Investigator can be reported for harassment.

If a private investigator is not performing discrete surveillance, and causes the suspect to become anxious. They may report the investigator to the police. This might cause the investigation to slow or stop. Private Investigators should try to avoid breaking any local stalking laws.

To be convicted of harassment, you typically have to show a pattern of behavior that causes distress or fear in the individual making the claim. Surveillance alone is not enough to be considered harassment. But if the PI’s behavior is deemed invasive or intimidating they could be charged for harassment. Investigators are legally allowed to gather evidence through surveillance. As long as they remain within the bounds of the law, they are safe to collect videos and photos for their case.

In a worst-case scenario, if the person reporting the harassment seeks protection or a restraining order against the PI. This would legally require the Investigator to stop any contact or surveillance of the individual.

As you can see it is important to hire a Private investigator with a proven track record. This will save you time and money when it comes to your Investigation.

Chain Of Custody Issues As It Relate To Investigations

The chain of custody refers to the documentation and handling process that tracks the collection, transfer, analysis, and storage of physical or digital evidence. It ensures that evidence remains untampered and reliable from the time it is collected until it is presented in a legal proceeding. Chain of custody issues arise when there are gaps, inconsistencies, or errors in this documentation process, potentially compromising the integrity and admissibility of the evidence.

Illegally Obtained Evidence & Admissible Evidence In Court

In the United States, the exclusionary rule prevents evidence that is illegally obtained from being used in court. This rule prevents individuals from violating constitutional rights. The same principle applies to evidence collected by private investigators. Evidence that is obtained in violation of privacy laws is not allowed as evidence in court. 

As previously stated regarding wiretapping, recording conversations without the necessary consent, or conducting surveillance in private areas. Evidence gathered inside someone’s home without permission, is normally inadmissible in court.

Although the Fourth Amendment (protection against unreasonable searches and seizures) primarily applies to government actors, courts are cautious about admitting evidence obtained by private individuals through methods that would be unconstitutional if performed by law enforcement.

Private Investigators must make sure that all surveillance they acquire complies with federal as well as state law. It is the Detectives responsibility to ensure that all the evidence gathered is admissible in court.

Who Can Hire A Private Investigator?

Technically not anyone can hire a private investigator. But so long as you are legally allowed to enter into a contract. It is legal for you to hire a Private Investigator. Pretty much that means anyone over 18 years old can hire a Private Investigator.

Reasons For Hiring A Private Investigator

There are many reasons people hire private investigators. A concerned wife who thinks her husband is cheating, A business owner who thinks his partner is stealing from him, and many more reasons. These are some common reasons people hire private investigators:

Infidelity/Cheating Spouse Investigations
Corporate Surveillance
Asset Investigation
Background Checks & Pre-Employment Screening
Corporate Theft / Insurance fraud
Missing Persons
Child Custody Investigations
Corporate Investigations
Fraud or Criminal Theft
Fraud Investigations
Investigating Cases of Embezzlement, Theft, or Misuse of Company Property
Investigating infringement
Investigating Theft of Intellectual Property
Analyzing Digital Footprints
Corporate Misconduct
Conducting Witness Interviews
Digital Forensics to Uncover Hidden Evidence

Infidelity Investigations

Someone may suspect their spouse or partner of infidelity or cheating. PIs can gather objective evidence (photos, videos, logs) that can be used in legal proceedings such as divorce cases. Hiring a PI allows the person to maintain emotional distance and avoid the stress of personally investigating their partner.

PI’s can Analyze digital communications, such as emails and social media interactions to gain evidence about cheating spouses.

Background Checks

It’s not uncommon for companies to vet potential individuals applying for high-profile job positions. Employers may want to verify a candidate’s credentials, employment history, criminal record, and other background details to ensure that they are a qualified fit for the company.

Missing Person Cases

Families seeking additional investigation into missing persons cases that law enforcement has been unable to resolve.

Corporate Investigations

Investigating suspected fraud, embezzlement, or financial misconduct within a company. PI’s can help protect intellectual property and trade secrets from theft and/or infringement.

How To Find A Reputable Investigator

The number one best way to find a private investigator is through referrals. However, you may not know anyone who has hired a PI before.

If that is the case try calling 5 different Private Investigators near you and just tell them about your case and see how much they cost. Ask for reviews and if you can talk to any of their previous clients. Many Private Investigators will be happy to provide references and referrals for past clients.

Try not to pick the cheapest Investigator with the best-sounding offer. Many Private investigators may be experienced and qualified. But often times they will make investigations longer than needed to cash-in a bigger check.

Questions To Ask A PI Before Hiring

Here are some questions to ask when on the phone with a PI.

What is your background and experience as a private investigator?

Are you licensed to work as a private investigator in this state/region? Can I see your license?

Do you or your company carry liability insurance?

What are your rates and how do you charge (hourly, flat fee, retainer)?

How will you keep me updated on the progress of my investigation?

What type of reports will I receive during the investigation?

Can you provide me with references from some of your past clients?

How long do you estimate the investigation will take?

Can I see a copy of your contract or agreement before I hire you?

Process of Hiring a Private Investigator

Here are 3 steps to guide you through the process of hiring a private Investigator. Research, Call, and Sign.

Research a PI near you and call to determine the price and how long they think it will take, then once you feel comfortable with the investigator sign a contract with a retainer deposit. Then your investigation will begin.

Quick Recap 

There, we hope that we have answered some of your questions regarding the risks of hiring a private investigator. The biggest risk to individuals is the financial risk of being scammed. We recommend to avoid this by not making any quick decisions. You want to ensure that you feel comfortable with your investigator and don’t feel rushed.

Hiring a private investigator provides individuals and organizations with the expertise, resources, and discretion needed to handle complex and sensitive situations effectively. Whether it’s confirming suspicions of infidelity, conducting thorough background checks, finding missing persons, or investigating corporate misconduct, PIs offer valuable services that can lead to crucial insights and resolutions.

If you have any questions about hiring a Private Investigator give us a call at (323) – 875 – 3000 and we are more than willing to answer any of your questions.

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