myths about private investigators

If you’re thinking about hiring a private investigator to run a background check or launch a general investigation, it’s best that you have a solid and realistic idea of what private investigators can and cannot do. Gain insight on some of the most common myths and misconceptions regarding private investigators, so you can set your expectations accordingly.

What Can’t Private Investigators Do?

PIs Cannot Legally Record a Conversation

Maybe you’re hoping a private investigator can help you compile some incriminating evidence or catch a verbal confession. Investigators cannot do either by recording a conversation. That said, this varies from state to state. In some states, as long as one party is aware of the fact that the conversation is being recorded, it’s fine. In other states, all parties have to be made aware that the conversation is being recorded.

PIs Do Not Have Access to Private Information

Private investigators do not have clearance for private or confidential information. What they do have is knowledge of effective tactics they can use to find information. There are limits to this, of course. For instance, PIs can only use information available to either the public or private investigators.

PIs Cannot Wiretap Phones Without Consent

Private investigators cannot legally sneak into a person’s home to wiretap a phone without that person’s consent. Wiretapping a phone without permission is a crime, and the investigator can be arrested if the act is discovered. Even if the private investigator isn’t caught, any evidence gathered through the wiretap will be deemed inadmissible in court.

PIs Cannot Make Arrests

Private investigators do not have the legal authority to make an arrest; that is left up to law enforcement officers. That said, an investigator can make a citizen’s arrest if she or he witnesses a crime being committed firsthand. With this misconception, it’s important to consider that private investigators are known as investigators rather than private officers for a reason.

What Can Private Investigators Do?

PIs Can Run Background Checks

Private investigators are legally authorized to run background checks. Investigators have access to technology and databases for public information, making it fast and easy for them to uncover details about a babysitter you’re thinking of hiring or a roommate you’re thinking about moving in with.

PIs Can Follow Someone

Investigators can follow someone and make note of his or her activities, the people the target interacts with and where the person goes. The caveat is that the investigator cannot follow the target on private property, as that would be considered trespassing. This is one reason why investigators have to stake out a location and wait until the target steps out into public view before resuming surveillance.

PIs Can Sometimes Track a Person Using GPS

Private investigators can use GPS to track a car, but only as long as the person who makes the tracking request is listed on the title of the car being tracked. This is common with suspected infidelity cases where one spouse wants the other tracked to see where she or he is going and how long she or he stays at a certain location.

PIs Occasionally Work With the Police

Maybe police investigated a crime and you weren’t satisfied with their findings. Private investigators can come in afterward and conduct their own investigation to see if they can uncover new information or a new angle. Investigators may work with the police officers who originally worked the case to see if they can find new leads. It could be that the police were overwhelmed with other cases and didn’t do as good of a job as they could have done, which could make them more willing to work with a private investigator.

PIs Can Take Photos of Someone

Just like you can record and take pictures of private citizens, private investigators can take photos of people from the street. The photo has to be taken on public property in a place that’s considered to be public domain. There’s no expectation of privacy in a front or backyard outside a private home, and investigators are legally allowed to take images of a person in these areas.

After learning a bit more about a PI’s legal capabilities, are you ready to hire a professional to take on your case? Contact Beau Dietl & Associates today.