When Should You Consider Hiring a Private Investigator

l7There are times you should consider turning to an investigator for help, and other times when a private investigator is really not what you need. Here are a few guidelines for you.

Good Indicators that You Can Use a Private Investigator’s Help

1. You’re a Lawyer.

Attorneys often use investigators to track down any details that the police might have missed when working on a case. The police represent the prosecutors, not the defense, so if an attorney believes she can find evidence that refutes the charges, she’ll hire a private investigator to root out the truth. Or, if the plaintiff believes that the police are purposely or accidentally failing to do a proper investigation, a private investigator can be used.

2. You Suspect Your Spouse is Cheating.

This is an unfortunate occurrence, but it has to be dealt with. Often, a spouse who is disenchanted with the marriage will seek an affair but hang on to the marriage for financial gain. It’s a sticky situation and because no actual crime is being committed by the simple act of adultery, the police don’t want to get involved. There could possibly be a conspiracy between the cheating spouse and his or her lover to defraud the jilted spouse out of money, and that would be a crime, but usually there is just the simple fact of adultery and it has to be proven, especially when there’s a pre-nuptial agreement in force.

3. You’re Defending Yourself Against an Unjust Accusation.

Sometimes people attack someone else’s reputation unjustly, and the accused can receive material damage, meaning that the damage to reputation translates to loss of business or other financial stream. But no matter the reason for the character assassination, investigators get hired to find out the truth behind the rumors and rancor. Often, this kind of back-stabbing perpetrator will back down once he or she finds out that there’s an investigator on the case.

4. You’re Running a Big Department Store.

It’s no secret that stores and other businesses hire investigators. They are extremely useful in detecting shoplifting, vandalism, and other losses that can cost in the millions depending on the size of the chain or the type of merchandise that’s being sold. These may or may not be set up as security personnel that you usually see posted at the doors. Often, the investigators are dressed in plain clothes and either circulate around the store or stay out of sight monitoring surveillance cameras.

5. You Want Information About Your Relatives, Predecessors, or Inheritance.

If you have missing relatives, a PI might be apt to spend more time and resources tracking them down for you. Or, if you suspect something has gone wrong with the process of handing down property, an investigator can help.

Here are some reasons you should not be using an investigator.

1. You’re Just Trying to Ruin Someone’s Reputation.

If you have a personal beef with somebody and you’re just digging for dirt to use against them, you might consider de-stressing another way and letting it go. Unless there’s been substantial financial or physical harm done to you, you could be better off investing in stress-relieving activities like sports, talking to a counselor, or meditation.

Anger is a very real thing and needs resolution, and many people seek to discredit the person that hurt them rather than learning the very real skill that will satisfy them and build a better life going forward, and that is the skill of using nasty things that people do to motivate them to succeed.

2. You Need the Police.

When there’s an actual crime involved, you’ve got to report it to the police. A PI can help you enormously in sticky situations that have a big effect on your peace of mind and life, but if you’re being stalked, threatened, or hurt in any way, it’s a police matter and you need to start using them to document abuses and interview involved parties even if you’re not ready to file charges. Sometimes, simply reporting abuse will stop it, but when it doesn’t, it never hurts to have reported all the priors so the records reflect them in a way that’s admissible in court.

Five Things a Private Investigator Should Not Do for You

l5A Private Investigator has an interesting niche. Categorized as neither police nor entirely civilian, a PI can do certain things that police and civilians can’t. Let’s explore some of the things your PI should NOT be doing for you. If you find that he or she is, get out of your contract with them as quickly as you can and terminate the relationship.

1. A Private Investigator Can’t Break the Law.

For many people who believe everything they see on TV, a PI is a mysterious character who can take great liberties with the law in their country or jurisdiction. You’ve probably seen PI’s kidnap, hold people by force, beat up people to get them to talk, bribe officers, break into buildings, impersonate persons of authority to get others to talk, break into windows, photograph records without a warrant, etc. Basically, if it’s against the law, a PI can’t do it, even though there are certain privileges in some countries that come with being a PI.

2. A Private Investigator Can’t Wiretap and Is Not a Spy.

It’s illegal to record phone calls and conversations without informing the person being recorded, especially in environments where the person has a legal expectation of privacy. A PI might be more likely to be in a place where he can overhear certain conversations, because a PI can be on private property listening in as long as it’s not in violation of the law. If your PI is told to leave the property, either verbally or by a “No Trespassing” sign, and ignores that request, your PI is violating the trespassing laws. If you find out that your PI is recording people without their knowledge and you’re paying the investigator, terminate the contract immediately.

3. It’s Illegal for a Private Investigator to Impersonate.

If your investigator goes into a hospital, dons surgical scrubs, parades into a patient’s room, and proceeds to read the patient’s chart, that PI has just broken the law. Sure, you’ve seen it on TV shows, but that doesn’t make it legal and (hopefully) you won’t see any behavior like this in real life. Besides, it’s usually much easier to simply go to the hospital room, strike up a conversation with the patient, and get permission to glance at the chart. In real life, there’s almost always an easier, less dramatic way to get things done.

4. Your PI Must Not Trespass.

As stated above, your PI can’t break and enter, ignore “Keep Out” signs, steal evidence from any location, or just generally act sleazy. It only works in TV and movies.

5. Your PI Must Not Commit Battery.

If your PI grabs someone by the arm and tries to detain him or her, your PI is committing battery. Your PI will not get into nearly the number of fights you might expect him to. Your PI will use powers of observation and communication, not force.

With all these restrictions, you might wonder how much of the intelligence is gathered. It can be at the library, or via a series of interviews, talking with informants, and plain old surveillance. A PI usually tries to stay low profile, so communication skills are a must.

What CAN a Private Investigator Do?

1. In some countries, an officer cannot approach a private residence without reason.

That’s not true of a PI. The PI is certainly welcome to stroll up to the door just like any citizen, which makes it much easier for that PI to overhear certain conversations. While he might not be able to record them, it’s certainly okay to take notes. But the minute he’s detected and asked to leave, he must comply.

2. A PI Has Access to Certain Records that the Public Can’t Get.

This does depend on the country but in some cases a PI can access certain databases of banks, cell phones, property, and background checks that the general public can’t see. The only restriction is that the access needs to relate to a case that the PI is currently investigating. The PI is not a sworn officer, but there are some areas of trust that come if there is licensing.

3. A PI Can Stay Neutral in a Partnership.

Whether it’s a business or marriage partnership, a PI can be hired by one of the partners to investigate the other. There is no legal obligation to be loyal to both.