Private Investigators FAQ's | Everything You Need To Know About P.I's

Private Investigators FAQ

Private Investigators FAQ

Things to know about a Private Investigator

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1. Do private investigators have special rules they need to follow?

In most jurisdictions, a legitimate private investigator must possess a license to offer paid investigative services. Pursuant to this license, an investigator must comply with certain rules and regulations that are legally enforceable and are subject to change over time – similar to a driver’s license for example. Unfortunately, regulators of our industry generally don’t enforce all the current laws very well, which means you must be wary when enlisting investigative services from certain firms – someoperators do the wrong thing and skirt the law. Investigators aren’t granted any additional powers that agencies like the police force receive. Rather, we are subject to the same laws that govern the rest of society. Experienced investigators use their knowledge and skills, rather than special powers, to achieve outcomes. It’s also important to be mindful of the laws surrounding trespass and surveillance as they affect a great deal of our operations and must be adhered to at all time.

  • Legitimate investigators must follow the regulations set out as a condition of their investigative license, as well as the laws that govern the rest of society.
  • Investigators don’t have special powers but rather, they rely on their knowledge and skills to achieve positive outcomes.
  • Be wary of dodgy investigators – regulations aren’t enforced all that well in Australia because it’s a small industry that doesn’t attract attention!
2. How much does it cost to hire a private investigator?

That depends entirely on the nature of each individual case we investigate. Every matter is unique. Take, for example, a search for a missing person. If the name of the subject is quite common (something like John Smith), and you aren’t able to give us many more details about the person, it’s going to take hours and hours to comb through all the search results in a database to find relevant information. However, a less common name will usually make the case far more straightforward because we would need to sift through far fewer results in a database to find what we are looking for. All areas of investigations, whether it be surveillance, digital investigations, background checks, etc vary in complexity depending on what is involved. It is easy to see therefore that the cost of conducting investigations is contingent on the time and resources that will need to be allocated to your case. It’s important that you provide an investigator with all the relevant details surrounding your case so a plan and a fair budget can be tailored to meet your specific needs.

  • The price of a private investigator varies depending on the resources they require to endeavour to fulfil your objectives.
  • For example, it will take many hours to search through database results under a name like John Smith but finding a person with a unique name may be far easier.
  • It’s important that you provide an investigator with all the relevant details surrounding your case so a plan and a fair budget can be tailored to meet your specific needs.
3. How often is it that investigations are unsuccessful?

There’s no simple way to answer this because an experienced investigator knows that every individual has a different concept of success. At times we have accomplished every objective that the client set out, and yet they were unsatisfied by the final result. On the flip-side, we’ve at times been unable to achieve their stated objectives, but they’ve walked away extremely happy with our investigation due to the fact that new or unexpected information was uncovered. To a certain extent, preconceived expectations can dictate the emotional response to an investigation outcome. Because of these factors, we believe it’s important for a client and an investigator to communicate very clearly about how the investigation will be conducted at the outset. What we can say with confidence is that we are able to provide our clients with information that assists them in the vast majority of cases that we undertake. Even in those matters in which there is no immediate resolution available, we may be able to uncover useful information that enables our clients to solve the case themselves by taking a few more steps.

  • “Success” is subjective – everybody has a different objective in mind.
  • What we can say with confidence is that we are able to provide our clients with information that assists them in the vast majority of cases that we undertake.
  • Even when there is no immediate resolution possible, we may be able to uncover valuable information that enables our clients to resolve the matter themselves.
4. At what point does conducting surveillance become illegal?

When the person under observation becomes aware that he or she is being observed, the surveillance then falls under the category of stalking and harassment. This is because, in the eyes of the law, the operative is now aware that the person is fearful of being followed. Once the subject becomes aware, the investigator must then cease their surveillance, delay it to a later date, or switch to a new surveillance strategy altogether. People who are suffering from PTSD, for example, ex-military personnel or people who are engaged in serious wrongdoing may be wary of being followed but it is only a very small percentage of the population who fall into this category.

Surveillance is legal UNLESS the subject becomes aware that he or she is being followed.

If an investigator is spotted, he or she must:

  • Cease surveillance
  • Consider commencing at a later date when the wariness may have passed, OR
  • Switch to a new strategy entirely, for example utilising multiple surveillance operatives to minimise suspicion.
5. Why use a private investigator over the police?

Literally every day, private investigators receive calls from people who have been the victim of a crime that the police are not able to help them with. The police would like to aid everybody and are generally ethical, but a lot of people discover when they deal with the police that the force is understaffed, under-resourced, inexperienced and unable to handle the sheer volume of reports of criminal activity. After a report is made, members of the public often come to realise that the police are not dedicating the necessary resources to the investigation of the crime. This is the main reason that victims of a crime utilise private investigators – even though the police have more power and resources than private eyes, they’re often too overwhelmed by the volume of cases to help everybody. This blackmail case  is a prime example of this type of scenario, where a victim of blackmail came to us for assistance after unsuccessful contact with the police. Ultimately, our investigators ended up solving his matter as a civil case at the Supreme Court level. A lot of criminal matters can potentially become civil matters which means the police need not necessarily get involved. Don’t delay – if the police are not acting, speak to an investigator before you lose your chance of gathering evidence.

Police not taking your case seriously? People are turning instead to private investigators.

  • If you are the victim of a crime, you might be surprised to discover that the police force is generally understaffed, under-resourced and inexperienced.
  • Private investigators are sometimes able to help solve criminal cases or help you explore the prospect of solving the matter by taking civil court action.
  • Don’t delay – if the police are not acting, speak to an investigator before you lose your chance of gathering evidence.
6. Can investigators testify in court?

Put simply, yes. Investigators and forensic expert witnesses testify in courts whenever necessary. Surveillance operatives may occasionally be required to testify as to their observations if the matter is hotly contested. Quite often, an affidavit will suffice. It is more common for forensic experts, such as digital forensic experts or handwriting experts to be required to give evidence in court.

  • Put simply, yes. Investigators and forensic expert witnesses testify in courts whenever necessary
  • Surveillance operatives may occasionally be required to testify as to their observations if the matter is hotly contested.
  • It is more common for forensic experts, such as digital forensic experts or handwriting experts to be required to give evidence in court.
7. What happens if an investigator fails to achieve my objectives?

A reputable investigator will always complete the task that they are set and prove this to you by providing a report. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that an investigator will be able to answer every one of your questions or achieve all of your objectives. For instance, while an investigator may be hired to conduct dynamic surveillance of an individual, nobody can guarantee that a subject person will be able to be followed successfully 100% of the time. Even in the case of a police operation in which they may use 8 or more officers, challenging circumstances can always present themselves and events are unpredictable, especially in a busy urban environment like Sydney or Melbourne. Nevertheless, an experienced and skilled investigation team employs strategies and allocates suitable resources that result in successful outcomes in the majority of cases. A reputable private eye is always transparent and makes sure that he or she has a clear agreement about the nature of the engagement from the outset. Such an investigator will always guarantee, regardless of the circumstances, that he or she will work hard to endeavour to achieve a client’s objectives and protect the client’s confidentiality every step of the way.

  • A reputable investigator will always complete the task that they are set and prove this to you by providing a report.
  • Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that an investigator will be able to answer every one of your questions or achieve all of your objectives.
  • Nevertheless, an experienced and skilled investigation team employs strategies and allocates suitable resources that result in successful outcomes in the majority of cases.
  • A reputable private eye is always transparent and makes sure that he or she has a clear agreement about the nature of the engagement from the outset.
8. What if an investigator gets caught on the job?

The only time a subject ever knows for sure that an investigator is following him or her is when a client lets that fact slip. If a subject shows any sign of suspicion in the course of a surveillance job, investigators break off contact and discuss how best to proceed from there. It is quite rare for a subject to become suspicious but it can occur. Even if a subject person does becomes suspicious, the subject cannot know for sure that it is a private investigator who is following him or her. The reality is that certain individuals such as serious criminals, lifelong conmen, PTSD sufferers and war veterans can’t necessarily be followed in any conventional sense because they’re always looking over their shoulder. Even police struggle in such circumstances and would likely need a warrant to get a tracker to put on the subject’s car to help with the surveillance. Fortunately, such wary characters are very few and far between. We investigate the worst 5% of society and of that portion, only a very small percentage (say 5% or less) are naturally wary of surveillance. What can be guaranteed is that we are never actually caught out as investigators; we simply break off the investigation if somebody is clearly suspicious, and we always provide a cover story if somebody confronts an investigator while on the job.

  • Occasionally the subject of an investigation is wary and highly vigilant. This only happens in less than 5% of cases.
  • If an investigator is ever noticed, he or she breaks off contact and then decides how best to proceed from there.
  • The only time a subject ever knows for sure that it is an investigator following him or her is when a client lets that fact slip.
9. Can I hire an investigator if police are already on the case?

Absolutely, provided that we are informed that the police are also on the case and the client has given us all the information regarding the police involvement. It’s actually a really good idea to get our assistance alongside that provided by the police because sometimes they don’t treat cases with the seriousness that people desire. Once in possession of all the relevant details, an investigator can discuss with a client how he or she can supplement or support the police investigation. Unlike the police, an investigator is contractually bound to provide a service within a specific timeframe once you reach agreement with him or her. Sometimes, the police will not be able to help until an investigator has gathered evidence that can be used in the case.

Police already on the case? A private investigator is still of use:

  • PIs can work together with police to bolster the chances of getting a successful outcome.
  • Sometimes, police don’t treat people’s cases with the desired seriousness. A PI is contractually bound to provide a specific service within a specific timeframe.
10. How do I become a PI?

In order to become a private investigator you need, in almost all jurisdictions in Australia, an investigator’s license. In order to possess a license in investigative services, you will eventually need to successfully complete a private investigator training course. On top of this, you must meet certain criteria to be eligible for a license in the first place (no criminal record, not bankrupt, etc).

In almost all jurisdictions in Australia, you will need to:

  • Complete a private investigations training course
  • Obtain an investigative license (CAPI, etc)
  • Pass a general character test to ensure you are fit for the field