What Private Investigators Can and Can’t Do

There is so much misconception associated with private investigators. Many people take PIs as cops. They don’t understand what private investigators are allowed to do and what they aren’t allowed to do. Some states require private investigators to be licensed. However, licensing doesn’t make PIs cops. They are very different from sworn-in law enforcement officers. Different private investigation firms offer different services. To get detailed information about the services a private investigation firm of your interest offers, go to the contact page on their website and send an inquiry.

What private investigators can’t do:

1. Wiretapping

For a private investigator to conduct wiretap, he/she must have consent from one or both individuals involved in the conversation. Usually private investigators are allowed to wiretap with the permission from at least one party, but sometimes a private investigator must have consent from both parties before wiretapping.


2. Hack into electronic devices


PIs have the skills and tools to hack into electronic devices, but they aren’t allowed to do so. Hacking is illegal. Private investigators aren’t above the law. Some may offer such services, but if caught, they’re arrested and prosecuted.


3. Track someone with GPS


PIs can track vehicles of their subject depending on several circumstances. A private investigator offers GPS vehicle tracking services to the real owners. GPS vehicle tracking help in infidelity cases where the owner of the car suspects his partner is cheating. Without the owner’s consent, a private investigator isn’t legally allowed to track vehicles.


4. Search License plate numbers


Private investigators are allowed to run license plates. They can yield information to people but only for investigative purposes. A private investigator won’t run a plate number simply because someone is curious about knowing you.


5. Acquire medical records


Medical records are private. Private investigators aren’t allowed to acquire medical records unless you are willing to share. Your doctor isn’t allowed to share your medical records with private investigators without your permission.


6. Retrieve phone records


Private investigators are unable to access their subjects phone records. Telecommunication companies won’t give out your phone record to private investigators. PIs are legally allowed to use their investigative techniques to get their subject’s phone number and the carrier company.


7. Work with the police


Private investigators work with the police in many ways. Police hire private investigators to help them gather evidence. Police can be a PI’s client, but a PI can’t be a cop’s client. Police work for the government while private investigators work for private investigators. Just like private citizens can’t hire police to investigate someone, PIs also can’t.


8. Trespass on other people’s property


There is a difference between trespassing, breaking, and entering. Trespassing and breaking into people’s buildings and homes is illegal. A private is only permitted to enter into private property with permission from the owner.


9. Access to bank and credit records


Private investigators aren’t able to access bank records unless they’re working with attorneys. PIs are also not allowed to access their subject’s bank records. A licensed private investigator can only run your credit check if he/she has a legal cause.


10. Arrest

Private investigators aren’t allowed to conduct an arrest. When they witness a crime, they are allowed to stop the crime. PIs are allowed to arrest only if the subject is a threat to the citizens.

What Private Investigators Can and Can’t Do