What should I consider before choosing a Private Investigator?
The first criteria when choosing a Private Investigator is to determine if the investigator or agency is licensed bonded and insured. Your next considerations should be the investigator’s experience. Experience may include prior law enforcement, corporate investigative service or years of service in the profession. Most states require various levels and types of experience as part of the licensing process. This information may be available on the firm’s web site. The investigator should be willing to provide his or her education credentials. This can be important when preparing reports or assisting an attorney in preparing a case for court presentation and giving court testimony.
What to ask when hiring a Private Investigator?
When interviewing an investigator a prospective client should inquire about the investigators experience, commitment to confidentiality, and references. An investigator should be asked about his or her liability insurance coverage. Inquiries should be made about the investigators hourly rates and fees, retainer agreement, and if the intended work can be accomplished within the prospective client’s budget. The prospective client should ask if a contract is provided (New York State Law requires a copy be provided to the client).
The client and investigator should agree on how often contacts should be made and the method of reporting the results of the investigation. The prospective client should exercise caution if the only public information is a telephone listing for the investigator.
What is the difference between a Private Detective and a Private Investigator?
There is no significant difference between a Private Detective and a Private Investigator. The terms detective and investigator are used synonymously in the private sector. In the states that issue licenses, most licensees are identified as Private Investigator. For example in New York State, Private Investigators are designated under the law. Most prefer the term Investigator as it best describes the profession.
What types of cases do Private Investigators work on?
Private Investigators may provide a wide range of services, and their duties depend on the needs of their clients. They assist individuals, businesses and attorneys by finding and evaluating information. When an investigator is working a case, the environment might range from law offices, boardrooms, bars, or people or business they are trying to protect.
Private Investigators who work for lawyers or law firms assist in criminal defense investigation and preparation, civil litigation case preparation, locating and interviewing witnesses, gathering and reviewing evidence, and process service. Investigators may also collect information on the parties to a litigation, testify in court, and assemble evidence and reports for trial.
Private Investigators may conduct internal and external investigations for corporations. When doing internal investigations, they may investigate drug use in the workplace, investigate claims of sexual harassment, or determine whether employees are stealing assets, merchandise or information, and if necessary, investigators may pose as employees of the company in order to find wrongdoings. External investigations attempt to prevent criminal conspiracies from outside the corporation.
Financial Investigators may work to develop financial profiles of individuals or companies that are prospective parties to large financial transactions. They may also search for assets in order to recover damages awarded individuals or corporations by a court in fraud or theft cases.
Private Investigators also perform various types of surveillances and searches. Investigators working on cases that involve fraudulent workers’ compensation claims may carry out covert observations of someone suspected of fraud. If an investigator observes someone who has claimed an injury performing an activity that contradicts the injury stated in that claim, the investigator would take video or still photographs to document the activity and report it to the client. An investigator may make phone calls or visit a subject’s workplace to verify an individual’s income or place of employment.
In cases involving missing persons and background checks, investigators interview people to gather as much information as possible about an individual. If necessary, investigators go undercover, pretending to be someone else in order to get information or to observe a subject.
Private Investigators work cases involving matrimonial matters. Investigations of this type include determining spousal infidelity or gathering information needed in child custody matters.
Some investigators work cases involving intellectual property theft and investigate acts of piracy. Computer Forensic Investigators specialize in recovering, analyzing, and presenting data from computers for use in investigations.
Some investigators offer guard service and provide executive, corporate, and celebrity protection.
What are the traits of a successful Private Investigator?
Traits of a successful Private Investigator include the strong desire to learn the profession and keep up with current trends; the passion and curiosity necessary to solve complex problems; common sense, an understanding of human nature, and the ability to interact with others in order to obtain a swift and successful conclusion to a case; and being able to react quickly when needed to ensure safety. Successful investigators are patient, honest, diligent and ethical in the pursuit of the truth. Successful investigators are also business savvy and know how to market themselves (such as we are…we found Kariann) and their skills in order to acquire clients and succeed in the business.
Do Private Investigators have police powers?
Even when licensed, Private Investigators have no more police powers than the ordinary citizen.
Is my communications with a Private Investigator and my case information, considered privileged and confidential?
Yes. New York State law (General Business Law, Article 7, Section 82) provides that “any person who is or has been an employee of a holder of a (Private Investigator) License shall not divulge to any one other than his employer, or as his employer shall direct, except as he may be required by law, any information acquired by him during such employment in respect to any work to which he shall have been assigned by such employer.” Any person failing to comply could be charge with a misdemeanor. This law provides minimum protection of information developed by the investigator during an investigation.
If the investigator is working with an attorney, the information and material collected may be protected under “The Work Product Doctrine” that refers to material collected in anticipation of litigation. However, the work product protection may be overcome in a court proceeding with a showing of necessity.
It is our stated policy to painstakingly protect client identity and information developed during investigations. It is important when hiring a Private Investigator to determine the firm’s confidentiality policy and be comfortable with their experience and professionalism.
What if I don’t need a written contract from a private investigator?
The client should always have a written contract. It protects the client, establishes the parameters of work to be done, sets forth the rates and fees, and authorizes the work to be done.
How do I know if what I want a Private Investigator to do is legal?
We offer a free initial consolation to discuss a prospective client’s problem and recommend legal avenues of investigation to pursue.
If I hire a Private Investigator, should they carry professional liability insurance?
When hiring a Private Investigator you should confirm the investigator is covered by liability insurance for your personal protection. New York State requires a security bond as part of the licensing process. This protection is minimal.
In our practice for our client’s protection and ours, we are bonded and carry commercial general and professional liability insurance with a nationally recognized provider specializing in Private Investigator coverage.
What kind of criminal defense investigations do Private Investigators normally do?
Private Investigators work with clients and law firms in defense of cases involving minor offenses to the most serious felony crimes. Private Investigators who assist in preparing criminal defenses are generally former law enforcement.
We have worked with law firms in criminal defense cases locating witnesses, serving legal documents, interviewing police and prospective witnesses, and gathering and reviewing evidence. When called for, we have developed background on persons involved in the litigation, taken photographs, prepared evidence for trial and testified in court.
What type of equipment do private investigators use? What tools do Private Investigators use?
The equipment and tools Private Investigators use depends on what is needed to accomplish the task. When taking statements from witnesses, investigators may use digital or tape cassette recorders. When involved in surveillance, investigators may use binoculars, digital camcorders, digital cameras with telephoto capabilities, and infrared night vision equipment. Matters involving close surveillance that may require a covert interview, the investigator may wear a body camera (i.e. button camera) with audio recording capability. Interior security video systems (i.e. nanny cams) are used in businesses and private homes to check on activities of employees. GPS tracking devises may also be used, but there is a great deal of controversy about the legality of using this equipment in both the public and private sectors, and recent court decisions have created concern in the profession about their use, which suggests caution. There are investigators that specialize in using Technical Surveillance Counter Measures (TSCM) Equipment for debugging offices and private homes. Other technical services include polygraph testing that may be used by employers in cases involving employee theft or by attorneys to develop a defense for their client.
Do Private Investigators guarantee results?
No, a Private Investigator can never guarantee results. The final outcome of an investigation may not be what the client expected, anticipated, or hoped for.
How to hire a licensed private investigator?
Most states require a Private Investigator be licensed. The Secretary of State, the Department of Public Safety and the State Police license most Private Investigators, and a prospective client can access the states’ online public database to verify if an investigator is licensed. Many Private Investigators maintain web sites, advertise in publications, or belong to the local Chamber of Commerce, and licensed investigators can be found there. When asked, a Private Investigator should be able to produce a copy of his or her a license.
When I assign an investigation what am I charged for?
Common charges include hourly rate, mileage, and any travel expenses (i.e. hotel, meals and parking). Depending on the complexity of the investigation, there may be additional fees or costs.
How do I find out about Private Investigators’ cost and rates? How much does a Private Investigator cost? What do Private Investigators charge?
When hiring a Private Investigator a prospective client should interview several investigators and inquire about their hourly rates, fees, costs, and prices for the service required. Initial consultations are typically at no charge. For some services (such as background and pre-employment), an investigator may quote a flat rate. Commonly, a retainer is required and billing is done at an hourly rate, and any unused retainer is usually returned to the client.
Rates will vary depending upon the experience of the investigator, the complexity of the investigation, the geographic location of the investigator, client and subject, the type and source of the information needed, number of surveillance hours, along with any expense involved in obtaining that information.
Private Investigator hourly rates can range from $65.00 an hour to $300.00 and hour.
Can a private investigator help me with my situation?
Private Investigators are confronted with calls from prospective clients about problems and situations that may or may not be within their scope of work. The professionalism and experience of the Private Investigator are paramount in determining what recommendation should be made for the appropriate course of action.
Individuals, in an effort to keep cost down, may call a Private Investigator when they really need an attorney. This happens frequently when a spouse suspects marital infidelity. There are also matters involving suspected crimes within families, which may involve child abuse, fraud, or theft and require the police rather than a Private Investigator.
In our practice, we provide a free consultation to fully discuss a prospective client’s situation and use our experience and knowledge to recommend a proper course of action.
Will a Private Investigator maintain my confidentiality?
Many states, including New York, require licensed Private Investigators to maintain confidentiality with information collected on the client’s behalf. The exception would be if the information were gained through subpoena or court testimony. In our practice we maintain strict confidentiality with client information and in our contract for service we incorporate a confidentiality clause.
How does documented evidence help me during trial?
Documented evidence can prove or disprove allegations made against you. In order to attain a successful outcome in a trial, documented evidence must be relevant and admissible. Private Investigators aid attorneys by obtaining witness statements, records, diagrams, photographs, tape recordings and other evidence necessary to prove your position.
Can I do my own detective work to keep down costs of hiring a Private Investigator?
Yes, you can be your own Private Investigator, however, you cannot represent yourself as a Private Investigator. The problem with an individual doing this is similar to someone trying to be his or her own lawyer (“A man who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client”).
A private individual is unlikely to have the investigative tools necessary to carry out a proper legal investigation. The act of doing your own investigation is legal in every state, but how you conduct the investigation could easily become illegal.
How to hire a Private Investigator for a fraud investigation?
Private Investigators investigate fraud cases. Depending on the nature of the case it may be necessary to hire a Certified Fraud Examiner, who may also be a Private Investigator. In our practice we evaluate all requests for service including cases of fraud and if necessary, make a referral to one of our area or nationwide associates.