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A private investigator — also known as a PI, Private Detective or Private Eye — is someone that is hired to undertake an investigation. Most states require PIs to be trained and licensed. Investigators often have a law enforcement and/or a military background.
It is important that you perform your due diligence before hiring a company. You should do the following: ask for and check references, obtain their license number and check with the state licensing board to make sure they are current and have no complaints.
Most states, to include Texas, require a private investigator to be licensed. In Texas, licensing of Private investigators and Security professionals is governed by the Texas Department of Public Safety, Regulatory Services Division and Private Security Board. For more information go to: https://www.txdps.state.tx.us/rsd/psb/index.htm
In Texas go to the Texas DPS website at https://www.txdps.state.tx.us/RSD/PSB/Reports/searchOptions.htm to search for a licensed investigator. Keep in mind that all advertisements, websites, social media, business cards, etc., for private investigators must show their license number (e.g., A-12345 or C-12345). Look for that number to ensure you are getting a licensed PI!
In the majority of cases, private investigators will charge an hourly rate. Hourly rates can vary based on the type of investigation needed as well as how many investigators will be needed. Nearly all investigators will ask for a retainer fee before taking a case. It is unlikely you will find an investigator willing to do just one or two hours of investigative work. Additionally some investigators charge for travel time and/or mileage traveled. It is important to get a retainer agreement in place that details all possible fees in order to protect both parties in the unlikely event of a dispute.
Private investigators offer many types of investigations. Investigators often work for law firms to gather information on civil or defense cases. Insurance companies commonly hire investigators to look into suspicious claims. Private individuals hire investigators to locate missing people, to do surveillance on spouses and for many other reasons.
A large majority of detective work is spent in the field conducting interviews or doing surveillance. Many investigators do computer searches, background checks and make phone calls to gather data. Investigators are often asked to provide detailed reports on their findings and testify in court on behalf of their clients.
If you are looking for someone or something, chances are a private investigator can help you. Below is a list of some services that PI's perform:
- Accident / Reconstruction
- Arson / Fire
- Asset Search
- Background Checks
- Bounty Hunter
- Bug Sweep / TSCM
- Child Support / Custody
- Computer Forensics / Crime
- Crime Scene
- Due Diligence
- Electronic Data Discovery
- Electronic Surveillance
- Executive Protection
- Identity Theft
- Infidelity / Cheating Spouse
- Judgment Recovery
- Missing Persons
- Mystery Shopper
- People Locate / Skip Trace
- Polygraph / Lie Detector
- Process Service
- Public Records
- Trial Preparation
- Video / Photo Surveillance
- Workers Compensation
- Wrongful Death
Private Investigator’s have access to several information databases that are not available to the general public. But more importantly they have the training and experience needed to transform the raw data into actionable information.
To list all of the advantages of using a experienced private investigator would be exhaustive. But the main point comes down to judgments made from experience. Most investigators have thousands if not tens of thousands of hours of experience working on investigations. To consistently conduct a successful surveillance and mobile surveillance you need an experienced investigator. Could you sit in a vehicle and take pictures and drive behind someone, sure! The downside is when you get caught or confronted by the police you can get injured or into serious trouble. Additionally, now you have lost the valuable element of surprise. Don’t put yourself into a dangerous situation and compromise the discretion of an investigation by trying to do it yourself.
Having a professional licensed investigators report admitted into court or having them testify on your behalf also carries a lot more weight than trying to get evidence admitted that you collected yourself.
The obvious occupations include military, law enforcement, insurance adjusters, and paralegals. However, there are many other occupations that could be advantageous, which include actors for undercover investigations, accountants for financial investigations, photographers and videographers for investigative surveillance assignments, engineers for product liability cases, librarians and title company searchers to conduct record research of public and Internet based data, and the list goes on.