Common Misconceptions About Private Investigators

When you think of a private investigator, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? If you’re like most people, it probably has something to do with the way the profession’s been portrayed on popular television shows over the years.

But regardless of what you see in the media, private investigators don’t normally spend their days engaging in high speed car chases, having shootouts with the bad guys or jumping off of tall buildings in pursuit of a suspect.

These are a few of the many myths and misconceptions surrounding the world of private investigation, and we thought we’d debunk a few of the other ones here today. Matthew Garcia, working for ACES Private Investigations of Tampa breaks down the most common client issues and questions that arise during an investigation.  

Misconception #1 – Private Investigators Can Break the Law

That is a hard no in every conceivable way. Private investigators can no more break the law than you or I can; in fact, they’re ethically prohibited from doing so.

So if a private investigator is on the job and speeding down the highway, he’s just as likely to get a ticket as anyone else is.

This misconception pertains to all laws, but we’ll discuss a couple of specific examples later on in this article.

Misconception #2 – Private Investigators Can Make Arrests

Another myth that you’ve probably seen on television concerns private investigators making arrests and hauling the bad guys off to jail. Forget what you’ve seen, as this doesn’t happen.

Private investigators can report crimes to the proper authorities, just like anyone else, and by the very nature of their work may witness more crimes than most. But they cannot physically arrest anyone for any reason, unless it’s a citizen’s arrest that anyone can make.

But citizen’s arrests are extremely rare for a reason, and that’s because it’s a very dangerous undertaking for someone to engage in.

Private investigators are, as the name implies, investigators. They are not officers of the law. Some also tend to provide bodyguard services and also event security which has its own do's and don'ts

Misconception #3 – Private Investigators Can Wiretap Phones

If a private investigator enters someone’s home and wiretaps their phone, he or she is actually guilty of committing two crimes – the actual wiretapping, as well as breaking and entering.

If the investigator is caught, he will be arrested and prosecuted. And if he isn’t caught, any evidence gathered by use of an illegal wiretap will not be admissible in court anyway.

Misconception #4 – Private Investigators Can Record Private Conversations

Whether on a telephone, while riding in a car, in a restaurant or any other conceivable situation, private investigators cannot legally record someone without their consent, at least in most states.

That being said, there are some states where this can be done legally provided one party is aware of the recording being made. But this is only in a handful of states, so most private investigators will not engage in this sort of activity.

Private investigators can take detailed notes while listening in on a conversation, however, as long as this isn’t being done via an illegal wiretap.

Misconception #5 – Private Investigators Can Access Private Information

Private investigators have a reputation for making very good use of information that’s available online. But these are public documents that anyone can access, if you know where to look.

In contrast, private investigators cannot access private or confidential information like bank records, government records and several others.

Private investigators do often have relationships with law enforcement officials, however, that can help them access information that you can’t always find on your own.

But these are documents that are in the public record. Accessing private information without the consent of the other party is illegal for everyone, and this includes private investigators.

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