Find an Investigator: Straight Facts to Find Private Investigator
Frustrated clients are besieged with so-called "national" background check and private investigation services and local private investigation "specialists" when they try to find a private investigator online. In the Northwest United States and California, to find an investigator online, one wades through a maze of candidates, ranging from newly licensed with no experience to retired law enforcement personnel. When you need a good attorney, do you hire a first-year law student? Would you choose a lawyer who isn't licensed to represent you in the state where your case is located?
Here are some tips to find a private investigator on the Internet (by 30+ year experts in the field of private investigation):
Basic Tips to Find Private Investigator Online on the Internet
Verify Private Investigator Licensing, Private Investigator Experience and Professional Insurance
Generally, verify that the private investigator is licensed in the state of investigation, or at the very least the states have some sort of reciprocity agreement. Licensing ensures that a background check has been conducted, and the investigator has met minimum standards. Question them about state requirements for licensing and how they were met. Also, make sure that they have adequate professional insurance (we carry $1,000,000/$5,000,000 liability insurance, but have never needed to defend ourselves legally).
Remember, advertising of participation in a private investigator association has no bearing on private investigator expertise. In fact, more than 3/4 of private investigators don't belong to private investigator associations, or choose their private investigator associations wisely, geared to professional private investigator preferences. Simply put, proof of expertise is in exceptional and consistent results.
Many private investigators enter the field without any private investigator training and substitute other kinds of investigation. For instance, an Oregon private investigator license requires less than one-year experience and a background check, and applicants must pass an open book exam. There is also an Oregon "provisional investigator", who does not yet have the 1500 hours (about 3/4 of a year) experience, but clients can still hire them. Those investigators' knowledge base comes from experiences related to former occupations (and not private investigations).
When to Use a Private Investigator with a Law Enforcement Background
Former Law Enforcement Officers and Private Investigation Expertise in the Private Sector
Former law enforcement personnel may or may not have a good police detective background, but they rarely have experience in private investigation, and especially mobile surveillance. Some years ago, Charles W. Bates retired from his position as FBI San Francisco Special Agent in Charge. Mr. Bates had been Assistant FBI Director in Washington D.C. during the Watergate investigation and was Special Agent in Charge of the Patty Hearst investigation. Upon retirement, and upon entering the private investigator profession, he spoke to a small group of San Francisco private investigators about his new experiences.
Mr. Bates told them he'd learned firsthand how difficult private investigator work was and that he held a newfound admiration for the profession. He said there's a world of difference between picking up the phone, with hundreds of FBI agents out checking facts, and being a professional private investigator. Two investigators at that private investigator association meeting had dealings with the Black Panthers; one was Mr. Bates, who investigated for the federal government, and the other was famous San Francisco private investigator Hal Lipsett, security advisor to the Black Panthers, and both of them were smiling.
Caveat Emptor: Like private investigators, former law enforcement personnel have varying degrees of detective expertise, no matter what their position or law enforcement agency they were with, and they make the transition to becoming skillful private investigators in the private sector with varying degrees of success.
Find Private Investigator Online with Proven Experience and Results
Find the Investigator's Specialties by Asking Specific Questions
To find a private investigator online, get specific answers about expertise in the specialty you're seeking. You don't find an investigator online with criminal defense experience when you need to find an online investigator with good corporate and insurance fraud investigator skills. The same thing goes for family law, surveillance, background and fraud investigators. Ask about investigator experience in terms of hours, which are far more accurately telling (2000 hours equals one year for those who only work 8 hours a day). Before you choose an investigator, ask them how they would conduct the investigation. If you are uncomfortable, get a second opinion. An unethical or unseasoned investigator in the specialty you need can damage your case, and place you at risk for a liability lawsuit if you hire them.
When you want to find an investigator online for surveillance, look to find an investigator with years of hands-on training at a surveillance-specialized agency, or at least years of documented successes. There are so many investigators online boasting surveillance expertise without any training except for using a video camera. In some cases, surveillance companies hire investigators and train them for several weeks, and then send them in the field, still largely inexperienced and often without hands-on supervision. In other cases, a surveillance investigator will have worked for an insurance company, routinely driving around checking cases. These experiences are not and will never be the same as the work of a professional surveillance specialist.
Beware Investigator Who Uses Subcontractors or Has No Legal Experience
Find Out About the Private Investigator's Use of Subcontractors and Their Legal Experience
When you find a private investigator online, make sure you know who will be performing your investigation. Many private investigators online accept the assignment, and then farm it out to a "subcontract investigator", acting more like a broker than a professional private investigation service, which has spent much time and effort to properly train and supervise their investigators. You want to find an investigator online who puts the client and their investigation first, and produces the best investigation results.
Also, when you find an investigator online, you should question them about their legal experience, whether or not the case will end up in the legal system. A private investigator acts in your behalf and you may be liable if they do something illegal. If the goal is to produce legal evidence, and the investigator might testify, it's important to assess credibility. For instance, over thirty years of licensed private investigation goes far toward being considered a credible witness. Also, before you choose an investigator, screen the investigator for proficiency in preserving evidence. Having licensing in the state where the legal case is (or multi-state licensing) will add to the credibility of the investigator.
Read more here about Snelling Private Investigators & Information Specialists.