Life can suddenly change and you may find yourself facing a divorce, child custody dispute, cheating spouse, civil or criminal litigation. When life takes a sudden turn, it helps to kick a plan into action as soon as possible. The need for a private investigator arises, when we face the need to collect information that will be pertinent to the outcome of a case or verify information provided. Information must be collected professionally, efficiently, and within the boundaries of state and federal law and requires hiring a licensed private investigator, also commonly referred to as a private detective, private eye or PI. When hiring a private investigator it pays to know whom you are hiring.
Most every state in the U.S. requires an individual to complete a background check and obtain a license to be a private investigator but, in the few states where licensing is not required by the state, anyone can become a private investigator. Working with an inexperienced investigator can create significant liability to a client. Considering this, it is very important for a person to do their homework when hiring an investigator so you get the quality services they are paying for.
Private investigators offer an array of specialized services from background investigations, surveillance, computer forensics, and process of legal service, missing person and homicide investigations, criminal defense investigations and many more, while others specialize in a specific service. Regardless of the type of investigation, it is vital that an investigator be knowledgeable and compliant with state and federal laws that pertain to privacy, legal statutes in relation to medical and financial information, proper surveillance techniques, court procedure, and even victim’s rights.
A multitude of fee-based and free networks or associations are available on the Internet providing names of private investigators and private investigation agencies from state to state. These networks provide assistance in locating a private investigator specific to the service needed or in close proximity to the client, however these networks are not a regulatory agency, and many have no background information on the private investigator. While network services are beneficial and do simplify the search for a private investigator, sometimes network services can pose a problem when a client assumes they are hiring a reputable private investigator. Many networks do not provide investigative services themselves and simply serve as an advertising service not liable for the actions or quality of services provided by those listed. Many networks are simply a marketing tool that only require the private investigator or firm to pay a monthly fee to be listed, and do not verify the private investigator’s “good-standing” with any state regulatory agency.
Due Diligence when hiring a local private investigator:
- Request a copy of licensing information and any associations the private investigator is a member.
- Request a specific list of services the investigator or agency provides.
- Contact your Better Business Bureau and state regulatory agency and inquire if there are any complaints on file.
- Ask if they subcontract work out to independent investigators.
- Request professional references from the investigator; references can include former clients, associates, and even law enforcement personnel.
- Ask to review investigative contracts and retainer agreements. Remember, a written contract protects both the client and the private investigator and identifies the terms of the agreement while minimizing misunderstandings and liability.
Hiring a local private investigator enables the client to have a “one on one” consultation in order to discuss the case, discuss work to be performed, review documents, and verify references. Another major benefit of hiring a local private investigator is the investigators knowledge of the area and critical to conducting an effective investigation.
Having connections is an absolute benefit to any investigation. Knowing the neighborhood, local companies, business owners, residents, and “those in the know” cannot be overstated. Obtaining information from a “trusted source” and gathering information in a discreet manner is more dependable if the investigator is familiar with the demographic and geographic makeup of the area. In addition, it is an assurance a client will receive more personalized service.
Thomas Lauth is a 20-year veteran investigator and owner of Lauth Investigations International headquartered in Indianapolis, IN with additional offices in Colorado and Arizona. Lauth has and his team of investigators has provided investigative services that include skip traces, background checks, private and corporate investigations, criminal defense investigations for the state of Indianapolis, child abuse, sex trafficking, and even high profile missing person investigations.
According to Lauth, the benefits of hiring a “homegrown” private investigation firm are immeasurable. “Most investigations and preparation for litigation creates an emotional environment for those involved,” says Lauth. “As licensed private investigators, it important to be dedicated and it is our duty to represent our clients with the utmost integrity and moral conduct so as not to add to emotional injury.”