From Our Blog

What Is a Private Investigator Allowed to Do?

Background checks. Harassment accusations. Suspected infidelity.

There are many situations in which a licensed professional investigator can help you uncover the facts you need. A qualified investigator brings an independent perspective to your case and will know how to use a variety of information-gathering techniques and surveillance tools. 

You also want someone who understands and follows the law. There are many regulations governing the types of information your investigator may collect and the surveillance methods that may be used.

Keep reading for a summary of things a private investigator is — and isn’t — allowed to do when gathering information in your case.

A Professional Investigator May…

  • Investigate a phone number provided voluntarily. The investigator may find out the subject’s phone number and carrier, but may not access actual phone records. 
  • Identify financial institutions where the subject has an account, but may not access the account itself. 
  • Run a license plate, as long as a valid legal reason is provided. 
  • Perform a comprehensive database search, including national and state records. Public information that may be searched includes criminal records, charges, and convictions. 
  • Use surveillance technology to observe, make recordings and take photographs in public locations, where the subject has no “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
  • Interview witnesses and record the conversation with the interviewee’s permission. 
  • Place a GPS tracker on a subject’s vehicle, in accordance with Missouri law. The device must be placed on the outside of the vehicle, such as under a rear bumper. It must record information that could also be obtained from physically following the vehicle. The tracked vehicle must be parked in a public location, such as a parking lot, rather than a private garage. 
  • Conduct social media surveillance of publicly available content. Social media accounts may be used to identify locations frequently visited by a subject, as well as photographic evidence of his or her activities. 

A Professional Investigator May Not

  • Observe or record in locations where the subject has a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” This includes viewing or photographing subjects in their homes, backyards or public restrooms. 
  • Install hidden cameras or recording devices inside private property without permission of the owner. 
  • Trespass on private property in search of information. 
  • Access private emails or hack into social media accounts that are protected from public view. 
  • Open, tamper with or destroy anyone’s postal mail.
  • Access private financial information, including bank accounts, credit card statements, credit reports and personal income tax information. 
  • Review health records, which are protected by HIPAA laws. 
  • Investigate private phone records, such as who the subject has called or texted. 
  • Obtain criminal records that are sealed, such as expunged records. 
  • Wiretap without consent. Missouri is one of 38 “one-party” wiretap states, which means at least one participant in a phone call must give permission to record the call. 
  • Record a private, in-person conversation without the consent of at least one party.
  • Break into a vehicle to install a GPS tracking device. The investigator also may not place a tracking device on a vehicle that is kept in a garage where the owner has a reasonable expectation of privacy. 
  • Use deception to access information, also known as “false pretext.” This includes pretending to be a law enforcement officer in order to gain access to private property or compel a witness to answer questions. 

 

Do you need professional investigative services? Do you have questions about what information may be included in your investigation?

Contact Robert Cirtin Investigations, LLC. Our licensed professional investigators will help you uncover the information you need.

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