You are considering hiring a private investigator. You are wondering if is it legal to hire a private investigator. The short answer is yes. Hiring a private investigator is legal. Before hiring one, it is wise to know what private investigators do, the risks of hiring one, and how to find a good private investigator.
What Is a Private Investigator?
A private investigator (also known as PI) is an individual who specializes in collecting evidence on behalf of clients. The evidence that a private investigator collects sometimes is used for private matters or legal purposes. Anyone can hire a private investigator, from individuals, lawyers, to company representatives.
What Do Private Investigators Do?
Although private investigators are trained professionals, they have no legal authority over any other citizen. Private investigators are collecting evidence for
- People who are distrustful of each other
- Locating people to be served legal documents
- Dispute regarding alimony
- Custody battles and child support
- Insurance companies regarding claims
Private investigators cannot
- Harass people
- Make an arrest
- Impersonate an individual
- Impersonate law enforcement
- Tamper with mail
- Abuse database access
- Trespass on private property
- Use bribery
- Engage in hacking
In short, private investigators do detective work within the confines of the law.
Is It Legal to Hire a Private Investigator?
So, is it against the law to hire a private investigator? The act of hiring a private investigator in itself does not violate any law. Anyone who wants to hire a private investigator can do so. It has the same legality as hiring a lawyer.
That said, a private investigator and the client that hires them can get into trouble if they carry out unscrupulous requests and violate laws. Keep in mind that private investigators are ordinary citizens.
Private investigators don’t have additional legal or law enforcement powers. When a client hires a private investigator, they hire a private citizen to conduct an investigation on their behalf.
The Risks of Hiring a Private Investigator
Now you know the answer to “Is it legal to hire a private investigator?” let’s move on to the risks of hiring a private investigator.
While private investigators must work within the confines of the law, there are risks in hiring one. For example,
Hiring the wrong private investigator
Not all private investigators are the same. There are good ones who only operate within the law, have a strong moral code, set realistic expectations, and produce evidence that will hold up in a court. There are also bad ones.
Be wary of investigators that set unrealistic expectations or operate within a gray area. They could land you in a legal situation if they violate the law.
Getting what you paid for
The cost of hiring an investigator varies widely depending on the services required and the scale of the investigation. If your main criteria in choosing an investigator is cheap cost, don’t be surprised if you get low-cost results.
Since you will get what you paid for, you want to hire a good investigator that can give you good results. An hourly rate for general investigation work can cost $75 – $125 per hour, while more specialized work can cost $150 – $350 per hour.
With a private investigator, the result is not guaranteed. You may not get the answers you want. You may even not get any answers at all.
There is always a risk of getting caught red-handed even if you hire the best private investigator out there. So, always keep this in mind.
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How to Find a Good Private Investigator
Is it legal to hire a private investigator? Yes, it is legal. The next question is, how to find a good private investigator? Since you are paying and results are not guaranteed, you might as well take your time to find a good investigator. Here are several tips to find one.
- Connect in person and by phone with your prospective private investigator. If they are slow to respond, difficult to reach, or give you a negative impression, simply move on and find another. A good private investigator will demonstrate professionalism and integrity.
- Be realistic with your expectations. Don’t hire an investigator who promises you the answer you “deserve” or “need”. In this area of practice, answers are not guaranteed.
- Ask about the legality of a strategy. Always ask about legality. You don’t want to hire an investigator who operates in a gray area.
- Make sure your investigator will prepare a book of evidence. You will need it in court. You also want to hire an investigator who will testify on your behalf if required.
Is it legal to hire a private investigator? Yes. The act of hiring a private investigator is not against the law. However, there are risks involved when hiring an investigator. If you decide to hire an investigator, it is wise to take your time so you can find a good one. That way, you are more likely to get the results you want.