The short answer to this question is no. A private investigator is bound by the law when conducting surveillance, and they can do nothing that breaks these laws. Even the government is not allowed to watch you in your home. There are such things as searches and wiretaps, but these are only done with a warrant that is signed by a judge. Private investigators are not allowed to do this type of investigation under any circumstance, but that still leaves a lot of room to gather information and watch people legally.

peeking through a window

Anti- Paparazzi Laws

These laws have been enacted in several legal jurisdictions, including the state of California. Although the issue of privacy has been in the news as it relates to celebrities, these laws have been enacted to protect everybody. It is illegal to trespass on private property in order to obtain photos of people in their private life. These laws give people the right to sue when they are violated. Although these laws have been written to protect people from those seeking to sell photographs to tabloid newspapers, they still apply to everyone else, including private investigators.

Personal Investigators Do Not Operate like the Paparazzi

A private investigator has no desire to put his or her career on the line in order to obtain information illegally. There are plenty of surveillance techniques that can be used that are both effective and legal. In addition, private investigators are most effective in gathering information when their presences are not detected by those under surveillance. Not everyone that is being investigated has done something wrong, so if the investigation turns up nothing, it is important that the individual never knows about it. There should never be any dire consequences for innocent people who have been investigated.

Rare Exceptions to Privacy for a Private Investigator

There are certain exceptions to privacy that should be noted. Although they are not routine, under special circumstances a private investigator may be able to do some limited tracking that may appear to be a violation of privacy but is not. One example is with the use of a GPS device when tracking a car. Under most circumstances, this is illegal, but if a man or woman under investigation is driving their spouse’s car, it may be possible to legally track the car. A cell phone may also be used to track someone, but the phone in question must be one that is on a monthly plan shared by husband and wife.

As you can tell, a violation of privacy is not allowed when a PI firm is conducting a surveillance operation, but the good news is that it isn’t necessary. A lot of information can be gleaned from public behavior, and the key to gathering this information is discretion. When people do not think they are being watched, they will let their guard down and act naturally. It is in these moments we can discover inconsistencies. The issue of an individual’s privacy is not a stumbling block for a skilled private investigator. Let us know the nature of your problem, and we can explain how our services can help you.

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Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson is a private investigator and founder of Tristar Investigation, California’s premiere detective agency. Bruce is also a media commentator for the investigation industry, featured in the New York Times, CNN, History Channel, MSNBC, Los Angeles Times and many more. You can find him on Google+ LinkedIn and YouTube.