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What can a Private Investigator do and not do?

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Mika, Staff Writer

Friday, 25 June 2021

Hiring a private investigator seems a little out of this world to most of us, something resigned to the Hollywood screen. 

While the silver screen is littered with private investigators, they really do exist and can help with all manner of problems, both criminal and civil. For those of us who don’t operate in this world, it can be a bit daunting actually calling one up and starting an investigation, and who can blame us?!

We ask ourselves, what can a private investigator do and not do, and can they really help my situation. We wouldn’t want to get ourselves into any hot water or end up paying out for a service we didn’t want. So, let’s break down exactly what a private investigator can do and not do, helping you to make that all-important decision. 

Things a Private Investigator CAN Do

Gather information 

One of the private investigator’s main roles is to gather information on an individual, something they can do. As long as they don’t gather this information in an illegal manner, then it can include quite a number of different things. This includes finding out an individual’s place of work, family ties, educational history, political affiliation, and so on. All of this information can then be used to solve an issue or bring a criminal charge against them in the future.   

Interview friends and family members

To gather more detailed information, a private investigator can interview friends and family of the person under investigation. As long as they don’t use any pressurized or invasive methods, this can be a great source of intel. Talking to their family and friends will enable them to tell a person’s character, whereabouts, and intentions.

Gather information about a business

One of the best ways to understand a person’s day-to-day activities and what they’re involved in is to monitor their business. This can include finding out things such as a business’s credit score, the numbers of staff working there, the company revenue, and past employees.   

Things a Private Investigator cannot do

Operate without a license

All official private investigators need to be registered and licensed before they can begin investigating. There is a strict procedure that must be taken, including a Private Investigator Examination. Anyone operating without a registered license may be doing so illegally and you will be paying for information that can not be used.

Impersonate law enforcement

There is a strict distinction between a police officer and a private investigator, and if a private investigator is caught impersonating a member of law enforcement, not only is the whole case void, they could find themselves behind bars themselves. This being said, they may work in conjunction with law enforcement, giving them much more sway and resources.


Although a private investigator’s job is to gather information regularly and build a case against someone, they have to do this within the law. A private investigator can’t illegally trespass on an individual’s property; this includes their home and place of work. Again, if they gather information from trespassing, this could be thrown out of court as illegal.

To sum up  

So, before you think of things such as the cost of a private investigator or ‘which is the best one for my needs, it’s important to understand what a PI can and can not do. By understanding this, you can then make an informed decision on whether you need one or not.

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