Myths and Misconceptions about Private Investigators

Private Investigators are not Law Enforcement – One of the biggest misconceptions about Private Investigators is that we are Police Officers or Sheriffs. The truth is that the great majority of Private Investigators are not law enforcement and do not have arresting powers. Most Private Investigators are just normal citizens like you and I, with an expertise in a wide variety of investigative areas. This is not to say that occasionally a law enforcement officer will take up a part-time position as a Private Investigator. I will add that a vast majority of successful Private Investigators do have prior law enforcement experience which is of great benefit to them.  However, there are many others that have never been involved with law enforcement and are some of the best Private Investigators in the business.

Private Investigators can access private information – Unfortunately television has portrayed Private Investigators as having special authorization to access private information such as bank records, cell phone records, credit information etc. This type of information is protected by federal and state laws. This information is only accessible by owner consent or a search warrant backed up by probable cause. Many licensed Private Investigators do have memberships to certain proprietary databases that provide very useful information for their investigations, but most of this information is public information that has been consolidated for easy retrieval.

Conducting surveillance is easy – A Private Investigator may be hired to conduct surveillance for a number of reasons including workman’s compensation fraud, infidelity, child custody disputes, or missing person’s cases. A “surveillance” in Private investigation can be static or mobile, and is performed by observing a person(s) activity, collecting information and intelligence on the activity, and documenting the results in a report for a client. Following a person can be very challenging due to a number of variables that exist. The investigator has to remain undetected, so a safe distance is usually recommended. As a surveillance goes mobile though, it becomes even more difficult due to traffic, traffic lights, weather, and driving habits of the person being followed. Once a person or vehicle is lost, then the investigator may be forced to relocate them. This can delay or extend the investigation. It’s best, when speaking with an investigator, to determine an efficient strategy for your particular investigation. This will save you both time and money in the long run.

Private Investigators are only hired to catch criminals and cheating husbands – It is true that occasionally Private Investigators are hired to track down law breakers and gather evidence on cheating husbands, but this is a very small part of their job description.  Private Investigators provide investigation services in the areas of criminal defense, civil litigation, background investigation, missing persons, obtaining evidence in family law/divorce/child custody cases, and surveillance operations that cover a wide variety of areas. The typical day of a Private Investigator is not as exciting as the television would lead you to believe. Much of an investigators day is consumed by reviewing documents, analyzing and comparing evidence, making phone calls, researching databases, and writing reports. The goal in most investigations is to find the facts and determine the truth. This type of work sometimes takes time and patience. It is imperative that you find an investigator that is focused, determined, and tenacious.