Common Mistakes During Private Investigations


It is never a good thing when a private investigator makes a mistake during a case. If you want to become or are already a PI, you should be aware of the usual PI mistakes. Remember that your PI license does not make you rise above other private citizens. The law still governs you. Breaking the law results in the loss of that license, inadmissible evidence, and law suits. To make you aware of a PI’s responsibilities and limitations, here are some of the common mistakes that even seasoned private investigators make:

• Trespassing on private property. Look up any laws in your state which allows or prevents you to use any third party property to be used during your investigation. Some states permit PIs to do this, provided that the owner of the property gives his or her consent. If you gain access to the property, you get a chance to be closer to the person you are following as a PI. Always check the laws on this, so that you don’t end up getting arrested.

• Invasion of privacy. As a private investigator, you should never go beyond the boundaries set by law. This includes surveilling in public areas considered to be private such as locker rooms, or bathrooms. PIs should also refrain from wire-tapping your subjects and following them on an extreme level. Wire tapping always needs a warrant and a consent from one of the parties involved in the investigation. “Rough shadowing” your subject is classified as stalking, which can be very threatening or intimidating. Following them covertly is allowed.

• Obtaining information protected by federal law. As a private eye, you are free to merely find the following forms of information. You should never look at them:

  •   License plate without warrant or legal reason
  •   Tampering with mail
  •   Financial and bank records
  •   Information on the subject’s credit history
  •   Criminal records
  •   Records of phone calls made

• Violating traffic rules. Movies and TV series always show private investigators starting car chases, passing traffic lights, crashing vehicles, and even driving vehicles off a bridge. Private investigators should never be involved in such traffic violations. Violating traffic rules is irresponsible. It also puts the lives of innocent people in danger. Even photographing your subject in their homes, even from a distance has rules, of which you should be aware.

• Entrapment. This is illegal. As a PI, you should never get any information from your subject or about your subject under false pretenses. If a PI needs to get closer to the subject committing a crime, the PI should never suggest the crime at all. The subject should be the one to plan and commit.

A private investigator should always have the law supporting every action during the investigation. This is the only way for the investigation to run smoothly, without mistakes. Remember, the success of the case lies on the absence of any errors.