Private Investigations and Personal Security/Query

Advertisement


Question
Hello,

I was wondering if it was within the law for a private investigator to conceal information about a crime from the police if given details about the crime by his client?
For example, the client might tell the PI that they had encountered a murdered body and had fled the scene due to not wanting to be involved as they feared they might be viewed as the prime suspect, despite the client claiming that he hadn't killed the relevant victim.

Also, I'm curious as to what tricks PIs can use which are still within the law in order to get info? For example, pretending to be a hotel guest who has lost his keys in order to get the maid to unlock a door  -is that still within the law, despite being dishonest?

Answer
Hi Geoff-

In the case of the client, there is no such thing as "privilege" similar to when a client speaks to an attorney and there is an attorney-client privilege that protects the conversation. Similarly there is no special relationship as there is when speaking to a priest in the confessional. The PI would have an obligation, in my mind, to disclose the nature of the conversation to the police. Otherwise, the PI is setting himself up as the ajudicator of the truth, that is, he is deciding that the client is telling the truth, when in fact, the client may not be. Clients have been known to lie to PIs after all !

In the hotel scenario, the PI would be committing criminal trespass and the hotel, not the occupant of the room would be the victim. The occupant of the room, however, would have recourse through civil actions for an invasion of his legal expectation of privacy. That is the status of the law in the US.

For the most part, PIs have to observe the spirit and the letter of the law, because otherwise, their subsequent testimony or reporting would be viewed with doubt,

The only time a PI can misrepresent who he is, is in an insurance investigation when there is reasonable cause to believe that the claimant is falsifying his claim which is the crime of fraud.,

Private Investigations and Personal Security

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Nichols (Nic) J. Smith

Expertise

I can answer almost any question with regards to the individual state laws concerning private investigators; best practices and procedures used in private investigations;how to determine if the agency or investigator you are contemplating using is sufficiently qualified to do the work and if an investigation was conducted in accordance with the standards of practice and care used in the professional investigative industry. I can also direct you with regards to doing your own research in certain situations, such as finding someone who owes you money. I can steer you through the database "minefield" with regards to which databases contain useful information and which don't. I can also advise regarding the kind of information that you can legally obtain and what's not legal.

Experience


Awards and Honors
Life Fellow- American College of Forensic Examiners

Past/Present Clients
Morgan Lewis and Brockius (Int'l Law firm) Sedgwick, Detert (Int'l Law Firm) Bingham McCutheon (Int'l Law Firm

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.