Can Private Investigators Make Arrest?

Strictly speaking? No. Private investigators can’t make arrest, but thanks to mainstream movies making them look like unofficial law enforcement agents – without the liability, it’s easy to make that mistake. Let’s get a few facts cleared up about PI’s and here you can learn even more.

Fact #1. Private Investigators Are Just Private Citizens

What this means is that they don’t have the government backing on whatever case they’re investigating. In that vein, as private citizens, they aren’t restricted by the stringent rules police officers are bound by. For example, while a police officer would need a warrant to search your home, a PI can search your home once your consent, or the consent or a co-owner, is given. In line with PI’s being private citizens, this means impersonating a federal officer would get them arrested. Note: police officers can impersonate private investors, and a slew of other persons, not vice versa. If claiming to be law enforcement would get you arrested, so will your PI.

Fact #2. PI Licenses Have Limitations

Just because a private detective carries a license doesn’t mean that license is a mini police badge. In certain US states, their laws have certain allowances, so some private investigators may be able to arrest people who commit certain crimes. That is to say, some states allow PI’s to arrest a limited number of crimes – though not in the same legal capacity as police officers.

This isn’t the case here and with many other countries. In Australia, licensed police officers aren’t allowed to arrest anyone caught in a crime. But as civilian residents, they have a duty to report such crimes, as they’re committed. You can take a PI’s license to mean they have certain qualifications that allow them make inquiries most people may not be privy to, and to know the legal boundaries of their enquiry methods, as well as how to legally obtain admissible evidence that the court will uphold.

Fact #3. PI’s Don’t Have to be Licensed

The law doesn’t require private investigators to be licensed, so anyone can claim to be one. Since literally anyone claim to be one, it doesn’t make sense for them to have the power to arrest. Imagine the amount of disorder if everyone walking down the street could legally arrest anyone, they “thought” was committing a crime. Although there are certain restrictions in place, getting an ordinary license isn’t that difficult, you just need to be over the legal age, a citizen, and not have committed any major offence. A master license is a bit more difficult to get as you’d need to an associate in the industry, without any bankruptcy.

Just as they’re not allowed to make arrests, private investigators also aren’t allowed to move about with weapons. It’s important to separate the fictional private investigator seen in movies from reality. In reality, private detectives here don’t fix anything, they simply collect evidence and present the facts to the relevant authority. Need to find licensed private investigators with years of experience navigating the law? Check them out here.