What Is A Private Investigator

A private investigator, private detective, PI, or private eye, is a person who undertakes investigations, usually for a private citizen or some other entity not involved with a government or police organization. They often work for attorneys, civil cases or on behalf of a defense attorney. Many work for insurance companies to investigate suspicious claims. Before the advent of no-fault divorce, many private investigators were hired to search out evidence of adultery or other illegal conduct within marriage to establish grounds for a divorce. Despite the lack of legal necessity for such evidence in many jurisdictions, according to press reports collecting evidence of adultery or other "bad behavior" by spouses and partners is still one of the most requested activity investigators undertake.

Many jurisdictions require PI's to be licensed, and they may or may not carry firearms depending on local laws. Some are ex-police officers. They are expected to keep detailed notes and to be prepared to testify in court regarding any of their observations on behalf of their clients. Taking great care to remain within the law (e.g., being forbidden to trespass on private property or break into homes) is also required, on pain of losing their licenses as well as facing criminal charges. Irregular hours may also be required when performing surveillance work (outside someone's house during the early hours of the morning).

PI's also undertake a large variety of work that is not usually associated with the industry in the mind of the public. For example, many PI's are involved in process serving the personal delivery of summons, subpoenas, and other legal documents to parties in a legal case. The tracing of absconding debtors can also form a large part of a PI's work load. Many agencies specialize in a particular field of expertise. For example, some PI agencies deal only in tracing. Others may specialize in technical surveillance counter measures, or TSCM, which is the locating and dealing with unwanted forms of electronic surveillance (for example, a bugged boardroom for industrial espionage purposes).

Private investigators often work irregular hours because of the need to conduct surveillance and contact people who are not available during normal working hours. Early morning, evening, weekend, and holiday work is common.

Many investigators spend time away from their offices conducting interviews or doing surveillance, but some work in their office most of the day conducting computer searches and making phone calls. Those who have their own agencies and employ other investigators may work primarily in an office and have normal business hours.

When the investigator is working on a case away from the office, the environment might range from plush boardrooms to seedy bars. Store and hotel detectives work in the businesses that they protect. Investigators generally work alone, but they sometimes work with others during surveillance or when following a subject in order to avoid detection by the subject.

Some of the work involves confrontation, so the job can be stressful and dangerous. Some situations call for the investigator to be armed, such as certain bodyguard assignments for corporate or celebrity clients. Investigators who carry handguns must be licensed by the appropriate authority. Owners of investigative agencies have the added stress of having to deal with demanding and sometimes distraught clients.

There are no formal educational requirements for most private investigator jobs, although many private detectives have college degrees or have taken legal or criminal investigation courses. Private investigators typically have previous experience in other occupations. Some work initially for insurance or collections companies, in the private security industry, or as paralegals. Many investigators enter the field after serving in law enforcement, the military, government auditing and investigative positions, or federal intelligence jobs.

The majority of the United States and the District of Columbia do require private investigators to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary, however. Seven states—Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Dakota—- have no statewide licensing requirements. Several other states have stringent regulations (Washington State). A growing number of states are enacting mandatory training programs for private investigators. In Washington State, an investigator has to pass a criminal history back round check by the FBI (in most States, convicted felons cannot be issued a license), take a four hour class given by a certified trainer, and receive a qualifying score on a written examination covering laws and regulations. There are additional requirements for a firearms permit.

Emerald City Investigators. is a fully licensed armed private investigative services company.

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