Private investigators possess the abilities and know-how to resolve the seemingly unsolvable, but there are actually limits to our superpowers. Just like you, we have to stay within the law. And on top of that, we abide by rigid ethical guidelines.
Here are the cases that we will never consider from a client, and what our investigators are not allowed to undertake in the line of duty – No, it’s not about the cash, it’s about our ethical responsibility.
Breaking and Entering or trespass personal property or home. Personal property is just that – personal. We’re not allowed to break and enter or go snooping into somebody’s residence without consent. If you need us to go sneaking around, it needs to be above board. We are not planning to break into a residence or apartment because “they always keep the back windows wide open.” Nor are we about to trespass into private residence to find out “what type of activities that might be happening behind closed doors.”
Record somebody in their home. As an extension of the above, we have to honor your right to personal privacy within a private home. This means that we’re prohibited to record goings-on inside a private residence. If you are in public areas, that’s another story, but we’re not going to install mics or digital cameras inside of a person’s home.
Open somebody else’s mail. If it is not addressed to Missouri Detective and Security Services, we’re not allowed to open, take, or destroy it. Why you ask? Postal mail tampering is a federal offense, with serious penalties attached. We are not going to risk our licenses, careers, or records for the sake of materials that would not be admissible in court anyhow.
Listen in or bug someone’s phone line. Sure, we may get some good juicy content from wiretapping a telephone line. But we would also get in trouble for it. If we’re to record or monitor a discussion, we must have permission to do so. In some states, the two individuals on the call need to give consent. You now understand why telemarketers always let you know when a call will be recorded.
Put a monitoring device on somebody’s car. When the vehicle involved is your own, then it may be lawful to put a GPS device on the vehicle. If it’s partly owned by you, then the legality will become a little more unclear. If it is not your vehicle, then it’s a no-go under privacy laws.
Get into someone’s online accounts. We utilize Google extensively in our daily work. Whenever we can find something in a public database, on social media or anywhere else public facing, it’s fair game. But we’re absolutely not allowed to crack into someone’s email, social networking, or any other personal profiles. Nor could we get on your pc or add spyware. Also, be aware that if your partner “left their password on a sticky note” and you use it to get into their account, you may be breaking federal law.
Break into someone’s offline accounts.
On the same note, we are prohibited to access to your bank and credit details or your telephone records. If we have a warrant or your permission, that is a different story, otherwise we are limited to the info we can get from public records. Privacy laws are a very real thing!
Impersonate a police officer.
You might have seen people get arrested for this on television. Impersonating law enforcement is strictly against the law, and under no circumstances can our private investigators say that we are police officers or any other law enforcement professional. This will include wearing the police uniform, showing a police shield, and especially using police flashing lights on a car.
That is why a good Private Investigator works by the book to make sure that all evidence is obtained in such a manner that it can be used in the courtroom.