A private investigator is someone who conducts an investigation in order to uncover certain evidence. Private investigators may have to undergo specific training and may need to be licensed by a state licensing authority. Many retired police officers or military personnel pursue this profession.
Private investigators are retained in all sorts of cases. They are commonly associated with family law cases, including child custody, divorce, adultery, and child support cases. They are also retained in accident cases, including for the use of accident reconstruction and for insurance investigations. Additionally, they may be hired to help locate assets, provide forensic accounting services or to complete background checks. This is just a small sample of the cases that they work on during a routine week.
Anyone can hire a private investigator. However, law firms, businesses, insurance companies and private citizens may retain the services of such professionals.
Private investigators may offer a variety of services to their clients. Law firms may gather information about parties or witnesses in civil or criminal cases by hiring a private investigator. Insurance companies often retain their services to investigate suspicious claims. Private parties may hire private investigators to find missing people, complete surveillance on spouses or unearth hidden assets to enforce a judgment. Field work consists of conducting interviews and completing surveillance work. Once complete, they may create detailed reports that describe their findings and they may testify in court.
As part of their surveillance and other services, private investigators may use a variety of technological devices. The rules regarding the use of different devices vary by jurisdiction, so some items may not be used in certain locales. Private investigators may use binoculars, extension lens , digital cameras, hidden cameras and night vision cameras. They may also use debugging equipment, recording devices and tracking equipment. A van or other vehicle may also be outfitted with surveillance equipment.
Although private investigators may have access to more governmental records and resources than the average citizen, there are certain things that they are prohibited from doing. For example, they cannot pose as a law enforcement officer, wiretap phones, make recordings in violation of laws in the state or perform illegal activities on behalf of their clients.
In many cases, private investigators charge an hourly fee that is based on the complexity of the case, the location and other factors. Some services may be available for a flat fee, such as a background or record check. Many private investigators will ask for an upfront retainer before they agree to take the case. You may also have to pay for out-of-pocket expenses that private investigators expend to complete the service, such as mileage, airline charges, copying charges, long distance telephone call charges and photo printing charges.
Before you sign a retainer agreement with a specific private investigator, there are several steps that you should take to execute due diligence. For example, you should request references for the private investigator, including past clients. Additionally, ask for the investigator’s license number if applicable and check with the state licensing board about any particular complaints that have been lodged against him or her.
Hiring a private investigator should not be made as a rash decision. Instead, research the private investigator who you are interested in hiring. Complete a brief phone interview with him or her and request an initial consultation. Many private investigators do not charge for such a consultation. You may need to ask him or her several questions in order to learn about everything that is important to you. Be sure that you ask specifically about how he or she charges and which costs are built into this estimate. Ask for an approximation of what the entire service will cost you and whether an upfront retainer is required. Ask for a written retainer agreement before you pay the investigator. Additionally, ask that the investigator provide you with an itemized bill and accounting of services