There are too many myths associated with private investigators. The inaccurate representation of private investigators in films and TV has led to dozens of misconceptions about what private investigators can do.
In some states, private investigators go through an intense licensing process, working under other licensed investigators, and taking exams. Some states require them to register. Due to the nonuniformity of state laws, investigators access to information and tools vary from state to state.
Regardless of the licensing laws and regulations, there are several things that PIs aren’t allowed to do.
Things a Private Investigator Can’t Do
A PI isn’t allowed to enter a house, building, or property through illegal means like breaking. Trespassing law varies from state to state. In some states, they must have permission from the owner to enter a house or building. In Illinois, PIs are exempted from the trespassing law when working as servers to serve legal documents. Read more on trespassing law here
- Enter your place of business or home without consent
PIs are not allowed to enter your home without your knowledge and permission. They should leave your premises without questioning if you order them.
- Wiretap phone without consent
The federal law prohibits PIs from monitoring and wiretapping phone conversations without consent. In most cases, they work with local police as a warrant not to break local and federal laws when wiretapping a phone.
- Participate in unethical practice
Unethical practice refers to anything that can put another individual in danger. Investigators aren’t allowed to use unacceptable methods to obtain information. They shouldn’t provide information to a stalker or a person who might put another person in danger in whichever way.
- Break law
In addition to the limitations on how they obtain information and use it, investigators shouldn’t harass, use bribery, hack, or impersonate. They aren’t allowed to break the law on behalf of their clients.
- Impersonate Law Enforcement
PIs aren’t allowed to carry their badges, use any logo, wear a uniform, or use any method to that phrases them as police officers or federal officials.
- Record a conversation of which no party has knowledge
Private investigators should record a conversation if one or both parties know is aware. In some states, they only record when both parties are alerted. Read more on recording audio consents here
- Hack into an email account or social media
Some investigators have software that gives them access to information about profiles, like when was a picture posted. They are allowed to use such software. However, they aren’t allowed to use any means to gain access to the account.
- Run a credit check
Credit reports are private documents. A PI must have consent before running a credit check. He or she is also required to have a legal purpose.
In the US, private investigators aren’t authorized to arrest. In countries like Canada, they are allowed to arrest in certain circumstances. In some states, they are allowed to serve an arrest warrant under certain circumstances. Read more on private arrest here: