When a Private Investigator is mentioned the first thing that comes to mind for most people is a character in a TV show or film. For most who’ve been there for a while it could be the fictional Philip Marlowe by Raymond Chandler or the eccentric Englishman and consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. In most cases they’re absolutely nothing like you see on the big screen but real, available and helpful in diverse situations more than you can imagine. Most likely the good lawyer who won your case and ensured you got justice made the most of a private investigator. Often most people need the resources, help and extensive investigations of a PI. In fact, people suffer injustice, harm or financial repercussions for things a private investigator would have helped with.
Most likely you’ve very vague ideas about what they do or what they’re allowed to do. It’s also possible you’ve no idea when you need the help of a private investigator. From a cheating spouse, claims, background checks to insurance investigations, a private eye can help you in so many ways
What does a private investigator really do?
#1 Gather evidence
Divorce cases can be messy, especially where unfaithfulness is involved. In a state such as Louisiana and in a city such as New Orleans, divorce rates are the fourth highest in the nation. Private investigators conduct surveillance and review all types of information critical in uncovering infidelity and improper relationships. In a nation where over 55 percent of men are cheating on their spouses with at least five people and 50 percent of women admitting cheating with at least one person, your fears of infidelity may not be unfounded. It helps to know for sure.
Private investigations, when meticulously and quietly done, waylay fears you might have or confirm them. In the process you get to know where you stand. In the state of Louisiana, confirming adultery and finding a cheating spouse can have a huge effect on your divorce case. While every case is ultimately different, private investigations about a person caught cheating can be used to:
- Speed up divorce proceedings
- Affect alimony and division of property
- Prove unsuitability of a person in child custody battle
A private investigator can successfully carry out FOIA requests (wherever possible) to government bodies to access civil and criminal data about a person. For instance, in child custody cases, the investigator will collect information on the person supervising the child and offering most care. Even social media sites and professional networks are cleverly investigated by private investigators to uncover useful details. At times surveillance must be conducted and a person’s movements lawfully tracked, and photo and video evidence collected. Electronic and mobile surveillance also aids in tracking the movements of a person to gather required information about them.
#2 Background checks
A private investigator’s work is largely about collecting information. One of this is carrying out background checks. It helps examine the history of an individual to reveal certain needed information about them such as credit and criminal history, place of resident, social relations and professional history. Background checks are used in various ways; landlords might want information on tenants before accepting them in their buildings and employers before giving a job to a person. Trust is huge in relationships and before romantically being involved with anyone a private investigator can help you know whether there’s anything to be afraid about before committing your heart to another.
Issues of stalkers, abusive husbands and people with potential of harming them are huge today. No one wants to expose their children or themselves to a person who could hurt them. Background checks give a proper perspective about what you’re about to enter.
#3 Locate a person
You might require a person for all types of reasons from divorce, find a long-lost relative or friend, and witness to defendant, among others. People who might not want to appear in court will try to hide and get away as far as possible. Private investigations help find such persons, including helping identify their addresses or carry out background checks to determine old home addresses and phone numbers. Lots of legal methods and techniques are used to gain information about a person and effectively locate them.
#4 Hidden properties
Whether for divorce purposes or just to know anything you can about assets you’re entitled to, private investigations are efficient at finding hidden property. Property records are researched to ascertain what a specific person used to own and currently in ownership. Even mortgage information is analyzed in relation to assets and collection of property transactions. Private investigators also collect information relating to bankruptcies with the analysis of corporate records and business value assessment to know whether a property or business was sold at a fair price or below its value.
If property or assets in a foreign land is suspected, the investigator will find it for you, including bank accounts. An average person might find it hard and time consuming to find property and assets, but a private investigator is highly specialized and experienced to find undeclared wealth, artworks, vehicles, real estate, priceless collectibles, and aircrafts, among others.
#5 Claims investigation
Private investigations help in uncovering information and truth in diverse insurance investigations. They involve life insurance, workers compensation and home and vehicle claim investigations. Private investigators find critical evidences that average people wouldn’t. Insurance fraud analysis is also carried out extensively. Where foul pray in insurance claims is suspected, private investigations have always helped shed light and find out the truth.
In business fraud cases, private investigators have their own ways of uncovering unethical and illegal practices.
#6 Attorney assistance
Lawyers and private investigators work together all the time. An attorney might want an independent investigation on a person, property or evidence adduced in court or before them. It can be videos, photos, online stored data, vehicle parts and official documentation about a personal, vehicle or entity. From such extensive information the attorney will make an independent conclusion on the evidence gathered which ultimately will affect the case.
#7 Social media investigations
It’s hard for any private investigator today to ignore the power of social media. Virtually everyone is on some social media and law enforcement, including private eyes are using it to catch criminals or gather evidence about people. Social postings are perfectly being used to track suspect’s whereabouts, analyze illegal or criminal behavior and even ascertain the truthfulness of alibis. For instance, a crafty private investigator used Facebook photos to identify a Russian murderer and fugitive. Social media is a very helpful tool in modern private investigations. It helps incorporate and collaborate other pieces of information for the ultimate conclusion of an investigation, especially because the number of Americans on social media is over 196 million or 80 percent and could well get over 216 million in just two years.
What is a private investigator allowed to do?One thing a private investigator cannot do, like a doctor, lecturer or business owner is break the law. A private eye might make the most of underhand and suspicious methods and techniques to get to the bottom of something but wholly legal. Private investigators can do several things. Surveillance: Carrying out surveillance on a person or entity is completely legal as far as the private investigator doesn’t contravene any law. It involves closely observing an entity and making a documentation of their location, activities involved in, and interactions among others. However, private surveillance investigations must always be conducted on public property unless the investigator has legal consent to continue in private residence. Private investigators have the same rights as any citizen and can interview or gather information like anyone else. Takings photos and video from a street is allowed, including video or photo evidence outside the subject’s residence. Wiretapping: Private investigators can only wiretap phones when they either have consent from either of the parties involved or both. The PI has no choice but adhere to the dictates of both federal and state laws on wiretapping. For instance, in about 38 states wiretaps are allowed by statutes if at all one of the parties in the matter agrees. However, in 12 states consent is required from both parties. Wiretapping without consent is illegal and a criminal offense and such evidence wouldn’t be admissible in any court. Private conversations: Just like wiretaps, private conversations cannot be recorded by a PI where none of the parties involved knows what’s happening. Sometimes only one party is required to give consent while others require both or all parties to be aware. However, if the conversations take place in public places where anyone can hear private investigators could eavesdrop and record the communication. Trespassing: Private investigators cannot be hired to trespass or illegally enter a property. Just like law enforcement, private investigators need permission of the owner to gain entry. Trespassing and privacy are firmly safeguarded by most states. Contravening them could lead to prosecution. Even so, depending on the state, a PI can enter a home or property with the consent of the owner or one of the parties. Protected information: Lots of people expect private investigators to do anything to gain information even if it involves breaking the law. However, private investigators cannot, for instance, hack into anyone’s servers, including that of the government. They cannot obtain data protected by either federal or state law such as information from your bank account. Nonetheless, private investigators can track where a specific individual has his or her account. For example, in family matters where a PI needs to find undeclared wealth, private investigations can find undeclared accounts but cannot access information of the accounts, such as the balance. Information restrictions also extend to credit check results, court documents, and phone records, among others. While private investigators can inquire on criminal records legally, they cannot gain access to such protected records. Arrests: Private investigations are always involved in tracking fugitives from the law, uncovering all types of criminal activities, carrying out extensive investigations and much more. However, no PI is licensed to carry out an arrest. The only exception is a citizen arrest allowed by most states where a federal crime is being committed, such as physical assault of a person. Depending on their relationship with law enforcement, state laws and the case at hand, PIs could be allowed to make certain arrests. Private investigators aren’t allowed to wear police uniforms, carry badges or masquerade as law enforcement in any form. Running license plates: Private investigators can run license plates in certain cases. Firstly, the investigator needs legal justification for doing so. If it’s for curiosity purposes a plate cannot be run. However, if the plate details are needed in an elaborate legitimate investigation for use in a court proceeding in future it’s allowed. Prohibitions: All private investigators are required to follow certain rules. They must be licensed by their respective states and could lose their licenses and other privileges if found in violation of federal, state or local laws such as harassing people, bribing, access information by pretense, engage in deceitful ways to collect information, among others. Otherwise, all information wrongfully gathered won’t help you in court and could attract penalties. Rule of the thumb is to ignore PIs ready to break any law or violate protections in their investigations to avoid being prosecuted and sabotaging your case.
Private investigator will help you solve all types of problems. They know how to get to the truth without contravening any law, risking your safety or damaging your trust. Even so, always make sure:
- You’re working with a licensed private investigator
- You’ve given the investigator all the information you have at the beginning to avoid wasting time finding out things you already know.
- You don’t interfere with their investigator.
PIs are professionals and will answer all the questions you might have and offer all the help you need. You might not get the answer you seek but you are guaranteed the truth.