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What Is The Purpose of a Private Investigator?

Published by in PI Hiring Tips and Advice · 3 June 2019
Before you hire a private investigator its worth finding out what a private investigator is, how they become one, the licensing and training requirements, what they do and what types of investigators there are.

By knowing this information you can get a clearer picture of what to look for and what to expect in a private investigator you want to hire.

Generally, but not always, a private investigator or private detective will have a background in police, law enforcement, legal, or the military.

Private investigation firms are privately owned businesses, usually employed to work for private paying clients. Private investigator’s are not public servants like police officers, or employed directly by the State or Government, although they do sometimes hire them.

The Most Common Misconceptions about Private Investigators

The misconception about private investigators, that is often regarded by the public, is that they are somehow immune to the law. The perception that the general public has is that private investigators are able to operate under the radar and use whatever means necessary to get their jobs done. This isn’t true.

Private investigators must operate under the same laws as everyone else. In fact, licensed private investigators are scrutinized to ensure they are following the law.

Here are some facts about private investigators and what they can and can’t do:

    • Private investigators cannot legally obtain phone, financial, or medical records without the owner’s consent or with a subpoena
    • Private investigators cannot entrap people they are investigating
    • Private investigators must abide by privacy laws in regards to recording conversations
    • Private investigators are not allowed impersonate police or law enforcement officers
    • Private investigators have the same legal powers as that of any ordinary citizen
    • Private investigators, like everyone else, cannot trespass on a private property
    • Private investigators can only perform forensics on electronic devices with a court-ordered subpoena or permission from the owner
    • Private investigators cannot legally hack into anything

Generally speaking, private investigators are skilled researchers and information and evidence gatherers that organize confusions and dig up useful bits of information for their clients. Every private investigator has a unique set of skills that defines their work. Some are highly skilled at computer forensics while others have impressive surveillance skills.

What is the Purpose of an Investigation?

The purpose of any investigation in the legal system is to provide the information necessary to support or refute a claim, cause of action, or criminal prosecution. The private investigator’s findings are quite often the basis for many legal decisions - made by judges and attorneys - as to whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a case.

In general, the purpose of an investigation in both civil and criminal cases is to:

    • Determine if there is sufficient factual-based evidence to support or defeat each element of a cause of action
    • Build-up the necessary factual evidence to prove or defeat a case at trial or to form the basis for a settlement
    • Locate leads to additional evidence
    • Locate any people or property relating to the case
    • Find evidence that might be used to discredit a witness

Of course, every investigation is different and much of the purpose of the private investigator will be determined by the type of case involved. Find out more about what a private investigator is.


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