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Are Private Investigators Legal? And five other commonly asked questions.

Yes – but we have very strict parameters on what we can and can’t do. Here’s a list of what we can’t legally do:

1. Conduct Unlawful Surveillance

Yes, we are legally permitted to conduct surveillance however there are limitations. Here’s a shortlist of activities Private Investigators are not permitted to undertake:

  • Pose as law enforcement
  • Trespass on your private property
  • Tamper with your mail
  • Put a GPS tracking device on your car
  • Record a conversation without your consent (keeping in mind the One Party Consent loophole)

2. Access Bank Records

Licensed PIs are not usually able to legally obtain bank records unless they are working with an attorney (Check this point)

Private Investigators, however, often leverage their research expertise to access and manipulate public databases to access the information they need.

3. Work with the Police

At times, Private Investigators are put on retainer to give a second opinion on a police case. For example, if police officers investigate a suspected burglary and report that no forced entry was found, private citizens can hire a licensed PI for an alternative opinion. In cases like these, Private Investigators work with law enforcement as ultimately, both parties are in search of the same end result, the truth. However, PIs and the police keep their own files, and PIs are not privy to the inner mechanics of active police investigations. PIs, however, may share information with the police, but for the most part, it’s a one-way highway of information.

4. Obtain Credit Information

Private Investigators are not able to access private credit information of an individual. If they do so, they break the law and are subject to potential prosecution. The only instance when a licensed PI can obtain credit information is when they have a legal cause to run a credit check.

5. Search License Plate Numbers

Yes, Private Investigators are able to access and run plate numbers for specific investigative purposes. However, limits exist to when and how far this power can go. For example, a licensed PI cannot run a plate number simply because you’re curious about a particular individual. They must have legal justification before doing so.

6. Acquire Medical Records

Private Investigators cannot access medical records of other parties. They can, however, interview associates, friends and family of the subject to obtain information as to their medical history. In other words, if people are willing to share this information, a licensed PI will get it.

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