Movies, television, and other forms of popular media have brought forth several misconceptions about private investigators: their daily lives, what they do and how they do it. Many people are under the impression that private investigators can do everything that a police officer can, minus the restrictions attached to the position. However, the truth plays out a bit differently from what people have been conditioned with.
Here is a list of the most common myths about private investigators.
Private Investigators Cannot Record a Private Conversation between Two Individuals
In some states, it is possible to record conversations if one party is aware that the conversation is being recorded. In others, it is necessary for consent to be obtained by all parties. Private investigators cannot bug someone else’s house or a rival company CEO’s office for someone else. The only time a private investigator is allowed to record a conversation is if it occurs in a public place and it is loud enough to be heard by anyone or eavesdropped upon.
Private Investigators Cannot Wiretap a Phone (Without Consent)
The rules vary by state, but in general, private investigators are not allowed to wiretap a phone without the consent of one or both of the parties involved. Wiretapping a phone without consent is illegal and considered a crime. The private investigator can be subject to an arrest if discovered, and any evidence that may have been gathered from an illegal wiretapping will be deemed inadmissible in court.
Private Investigators Are Not Authorized to Make Arrests
Arrests are best left to law enforcement personnel. A private investigator’s duties do not cover making an arrest unless he or she witnesses it being committed firsthand. From here, a citizen’s arrest can be made by the private investigator. For the most part, private investigators are limited to investigating wrongdoings as well as finding missing persons or fugitives on the run.
Private Investigators Cannot Trespass on Private Property
Again, trespassing or breaking and entering is a crime. Even law enforcement officials are required to obtain a search warrant before they are allowed to gain entry into someone’s residence or property. Likewise, it is illegal to tamper with someone else’s mail and private investigators cannot be hired to read mail that has been sent to someone else. There are stiff penalties for both of these and those caught are subject to prosecution.
Private Investigators Do Not/Cannot Gain Access to Protected Information
Information that has been protected by state or federal law is off-limits: this includes someone’s bank account information, phone records, court documents, and credit check results. While a private investigator may be able to track down where a person might have an account, they will not be able to view its balance or history. As for sealed criminal records, a private investigator may be able to find out if a person has one or not using legal means, but they will not be able to access the records themselves.
The job of a private investigator can be a very precarious one, especially since they still have to operate within the boundaries of the law. Understanding the limits of what a private investigator can and cannot do is essential, especially if you want to hire one.