legally performing an investigationKnowing what you can and cannot legally do as a private investigator is an essential part of the job. If an investigation is not done properly, it can result in information that cannot legally be used in a court of law. Investigations done illegally can also result in a loss of a private investigator’s license to practice. A PI firm that does not understand the full range and limits of their legal capabilities could trigger a civil suit against both client and private investigator. The following are just a few areas in which knowledge of the law is essential.

A spouse investigating a spouse

When a husband or wife hires a private investigator to investigate his or her spouse, it can be tempting to look for information that normally would be difficult to find. A spouse will often have access to many sources of information that can be legally gathered by a spouse, but not by a P.I. For example, there are ways to legally record conversations with your spouse that we cannot engage in. However, we can advise you on what you can do, and then assist you with our field surveillance once your spouse has left home or work. Our knowledge of the law will work to our advantage and yours as well.

Field surveillance

Generally speaking, a private investigator can engage in surveillance doing nothing more than law enforcement officials can without a warrant. The difference is that we engage in surveillance to gather the information you need. This may involve a criminal act, but in many cases it does not, such as a cheating spouse. Whatever the situation, we can gather the information in a way that is completely legal and do so discreetly. In most cases, this surveillance is done in public areas where the individual has no legal expectation of privacy.

An investigation of employee theft

This can be a tricky area. When a business owner hires us to go undercover to investigate employee theft, all laws must be obeyed. Although we are allowed to pose as an employee, we are never allowed to deceive the other employees, and manipulate them into a criminal act. However, as experienced professionals, our focus is gathering data; we are not making arrests or pressing charges. If theft is present, we can document this legally, so a business owner can proceed with appropriate action.

Serving a subpoena

When we are attempting to serve a subpoena for a client, we may use various disguises such as a delivery uniform. However, this tactic would only be used to get the person to open their door. Then, the individual is identified and served court documents. At that point, the individual understands that this was not actually a delivery person.

The example situations above only scratch the surface of the importance of boundaries in the law for investigations. This is why it is common for private investigators to have a background in law enforcement, including as police officers and detectives. Contact us today so we can hear your specific circumstances. We can explain to you exactly what can be done legally to investigate your case. With our experience as a P.I. firm and our knowledge of the law, we can maximize the chances of getting the information you need.

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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.