The professional standards to which private investigator services are held are generally defined by State law, if applicable, though not every State regulates private investigators. Check out the requirements per state here.
Nonetheless, the general standard for private investigators regarding arrests, searches, domestic surveillance, GPS tracking, etc., is essentially equivalent to that of a private citizen. Those rights and restrictions applicable to citizens are extended to PI’s. For example, an “arrest” by a private investigator amounts to a “citizen’s arrest,” whereby the perpetrator may be detained for a law enforcement officer who is empowered by the local, state, or federal government to carry out the arrest. On the other hand, if a certain activity is illegal for a private citizen, the same applies to the PI, and both can be held accountable by facing criminal charges or civil penalty. It should also be noted that law enforcement cannot use a private individual (or PI) as an agent to otherwise conduct illegal searches or collect information as a guise in order to skirt the law. Any evidence derived from an individual acting upon the direction of, or at the request of law enforcement, generally becomes subject to the same rules and consequences as if that individual were working directly for the government. By contrast, however, a private investigator need not demonstrate the existence of probable cause prior to collecting potential evidence that may otherwise be required by law enforcement. Any evidence collected by a PI may well be accepted into trial without the same scrutiny demanded of law enforcement and not subject to the same potential sanctions.
If you need help navigating these waters, or just want to discuss the options for your case, contact Larry Forletta here, or call us at 1-877-874-9394.