A Private Investigator is a person who for hire investigates and provides information. In the State of California, Private Investigative agencies, and Private Investigators within those agencies, are governed by the ASIS. The State of California it is required that Private Investigators be licensed and bonded. Many Investigators in the stat belong to different California Association of Private Investigators, also known as CALI. The ASIS does not limit the Investigators work, yet it specifically empowers licensed Investigators to research or investigate information on individuals, corporations or the like. Accordingly, only authorized, licensed Investigators are able conduct surveillance operations or undercover work. Investigators are permitted to search for individuals such as missing persons, witnesses or criminal offenders, as well as being permitted to search for property, assets, etc.
Private Investigators may be hired by civil persons, corporations, various Government agencies, police and the military. Some Investigators involve themselves in civil or domestic cases, while others specialize in corporate and/or criminal matters. Smaller groups of Private Investigators work in what is known as "ops" (special operations). Many of these Investigators have a law enforcement or military background. Cases these Investigators work on are extremely sensitive and risky and therefore are rarely made public.
In today's society, many people choose to use Private Investigators over police in order to keep the investigated and collected data away from the public. In some instances, the police may not be provided with enough evidence to act on a complaint. A Private Investigator may be retained to collect the necessary intelligence required for the case to proceed. In other instances a Private Investigator may be recruited by a lawyer to collect information that normally would not be of interest to other agencies. For example, perhaps you disagree with the outcome of a report or investigation that affects you civilly or criminally. A Private Investigator may be hired to reinvestigate or re-examine the situation in order to search for an alternate conclusion.
Domestic, corporate, or criminal, some of a Private Investigator's work is routine. An Investigator is required to research, collect evidence, interview, proceed with surveillance and other undercover work, gather videotape and/or photographs, and let us not forget the task of lengthy report writing. Investigators never shy away from working long hours, challenging the unknown and, in some cases, risking their lives. But, as many people assume, this profession is full of exciting moments as well. Well...it is! However, being a Private Investigator has its difficult and stressful moments. Often this career takes the Investigator away from his family and close friends for lengthy periods of time. Despite the time lost with those close to us, being a Private Investigator is an addictive and extremely rewarding career.
Nature of the work
Private detectives and private investigators assist individuals, businesses, and attorneys by finding and analyzing information. Private investigators connect small clues to solve mysteries or to uncover facts about legal, financial, or personal matters. Private detectives and private investigators offer many services, including executive, corporate, and celebrity protection; pre-employment verification; and individual background profiles, spousal surveillance, insurance fraud and workers compensation investigation. Some investigate computer crimes, such as identity theft, harassing e-mails, and illegal downloading of copyrighted material. They also provide assistance in criminal and civil liability cases, insurance claims and fraud, child custody and protection cases, missing person's cases, and premarital screening. They are sometimes hired to investigate individuals to prove or disprove infidelity.
Private detectives and private investigators have many methods to choose from when determining the facts in a case. Much of their work is done using a computer, recovering deleted e-mails and documents, for example, we perform computer database searches for our background, criminal and asset research division. Computers allows our investigators to quickly obtain huge amounts of information such as a subject's prior arrests, convictions, and civil legal judgments; telephone numbers; motor vehicle registrations; association and club memberships; and even photographs and much more, depending on the request.
Private detectives and private investigators also perform various other types of surveillance or searches. To verify facts, such as an individual's income or place of employment, they may make phone calls or visit a subject's workplace. In other cases, especially those involving missing persons and background checks, investigators interview people to gather as much information as possible about an individual. Sometimes investigators go undercover, pretending to be someone else to get information or to observe a subject inconspicuously.
Most detectives and private investigators are trained to perform physical surveillance, which may be high-tech or low-tech. They may observe a site, such as the home of a subject, from an inconspicuous location or a vehicle. Using photographic and video cameras, binoculars, and cell phones, detectives often use surveillance to gather information on an individual; this can be quite time consuming.
The duties of private detectives and private investigators depend on the needs of their clients. In cases that involve fraudulent workers' compensation claims, for example, investigators may carry out long-term covert observation of a person suspected of fraud. If an investigator observes him or her performing an activity that contradicts injuries stated in a worker's compensation claim, the investigator would take video or still photographs to document the activity and report it to the client.
Detectives and private investigators must be mindful of the law when conducting investigations. They keep up with Federal, State, and local legislation, such as privacy laws and other legal issues affecting their work. The legality of certain methods may be unclear, and investigators and detectives must make judgment calls when deciding how to pursue a case. They must also know how to collect evidence properly so that they do not compromise its admissibility in court.
Private detectives and investigators often specialize. Those who focus on intellectual property theft, for example, investigate and document acts of piracy, help clients stop illegal activity, and provide intelligence for prosecution and civil action. Other investigators specialize in developing financial profiles and asset searches. Their reports reflect information gathered through interviews, investigation and surveillance, and research, including review of public documents.
Computer forensic investigators specialize in recovering, analyzing, and presenting data from computers for use in investigations or as evidence. They determine the details of intrusions into computer systems, recover data from encrypted or erased files, and recover e-mails and deleted passwords.
Legal private investigators assist in preparing criminal defenses, locating witnesses, serving legal documents, interviewing police and prospective witnesses, and gathering and reviewing evidence. Legal private investigators also may collect information on the parties to the litigation, take photographs, testify in court, and assemble evidence and reports for trials. They often work for law firms or lawyers.
Corporate investigators conduct internal and external investigations for corporations. In internal investigations, they may investigate drug use in the workplace, ensure that expense accounts are not abused, or determine whether employees are stealing merchandise or information. External investigations attempt to thwart criminal schemes from outside the corporation, such as fraudulent billing by a supplier.
Financial investigators may be hired to develop confidential financial profiles of individuals or companies that are prospective parties to large financial transactions. These private investigators often are certified public accountants (CPAs) who work closely with investment bankers and other accountants. They might also search for assets in order to recover damages awarded by a court in fraud or theft cases.
Detectives who work for retail stores or hotels are responsible for controlling losses and protecting assets. Store detectives, also known as loss prevention agents, safeguard the assets of retail stores by apprehending anyone attempting to steal merchandise or destroy store property. They prevent theft by shoplifters, vendor representatives, delivery personnel and even store employees. Store detectives also conduct periodic inspections of stock areas, dressing rooms, and restrooms, and sometimes assist in opening and closing the store. They may prepare loss prevention and security reports for management and testify in court against people they apprehend. Hotel detectives protect guests of the establishment from theft of their belongings and preserve order in hotel restaurants and bars. They also may keep undesirable individuals, such as known thieves, off the premises.
Work environment. Many detectives and private investigators spend time away from their offices conducting interviews or doing surveillance, but some work in their office most of the day conducting computer searches and making phone calls. When the private investigators are working on a case, the environment might range from plush boardrooms to seedy bars. Store and hotel detectives work in the businesses that they protect.
Private investigators generally work alone, but they sometimes work with others during surveillance or when following a subject in order to avoid detection by the subject. Some of the work involves confrontation, so the job can be stressful and dangerous. Some situations call for the private investigators to be armed, such as certain bodyguard assignments for corporate or celebrity clients. In most cases, however, a weapon is not necessary because the purpose of the work is gathering information and not law enforcement or criminal apprehension. Owners of investigative agencies have the added stress of having to deal with demanding and sometimes distraught clients.
Private detectives and private investigators often work irregular hours because of the need to conduct surveillance and contact people who are not available during normal working hours. Early morning, evening, weekend, and holiday work is common.