Every year, tens of thousands of individuals and firms hire private investigators. Many times that number, perhaps in the millions, have considered hiring a private investigator. Occasionally, the reasons why someone will or will not hire an investigator prove to be the same: namely, a misunderstanding of who the private investigator is and what he or she does.
This guide is written for those who have considered hiring a private investigator, but have never done so. (And if you are reading this on our website, then you are either considering hiring a private investigator, or are simply curious. Or, perhaps, you are thinking about entering the Private Investigation profession).
No matter what your reasons, we welcome your visit and hope this short introduction will be helpful to you.
The terms “Investigator” and “Investigations” each derive from a Latin term: vestigare. The word means, literally, the searching, gathering, and organization of facts. The good investigator does not engage in opinion, supposition, or surmise. He or she gathers and reports on facts, the nature of which is dependent upon the focus of investigation and the client.
THE PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR
Private Investigator is, as the name implies, a private individual engaging in investigative work. The Private Investigator is not a public law enforcement officer or federal agent. A Private Investigator has no rights of arrest or detention beyond the rights given all citizens under common law (popularly known as a “citizen’s arrest”).
In general, the Private Investigator works independently of law enforcement agencies. However, the P.I. (as he or she is commonly referred to) has the same obligations to cooperate and assist law enforcement officers as does any other individual.
HIRING A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR
here is a mistaken assumption that hiring a Private Investigator is either difficult or mysterious. Actually, hiring a Private Investigator is not unlike hiring a lawyer or any other professional. The P.I., like any other professional, is offering a product or service available to individuals or organizations.
The first step is to contact the Investigative agency and speak with an investigator. At NGI, we have investigators who specialize in several different investigative areas. This initial contact also serves to provide us with an indication of your investigative needs.
The second step is to actually hire the P.I. This will involve entering into a contract that specifies the expectations and obligations of each party (investigator and client). The signed contract, together with the retainer fee, will be returned to the agency. When the retainer fee has cleared the bank, our work will begin.
The third step is the actual investigation. We only work “one side” of the case. This means, as a general rule, that we do not contact the individual’s) who are the subject of the investigation. Our work is done quietly, confidentially, and professionally. Unless the client requests an interim report, no information will be provided until our investigation has been concluded.
The fourth and final step is receiving the investigative report. The investigative report will conclude our work on behalf of the client for that particular case.
A common question is why Private Investigators require a retainer before conducting any work on behalf of our clients. The answer is simple. Quite apart from this being a standard procedure in the private investigations industry, it is a good business practice.
While requiring the retainer fee “up front” we are able to keep costs relatively low since we don’t have overhead costs like fees for attorneys and collection agencies. In addition, we are committed to confidentiality and it would not be good for either clients or for us if we had to initiate a lawsuit to recover unpaid fees.
Like most attorneys, your initial consultation is free. Unlike most attorneys, we rarely bill the client for our time after the retainer fee has been paid and the investigation has been opened. (There are some exceptions, such as when a client wishes us to appear on their behalf in a Court of Law). There are no “hidden fees”.
REJECTING A CASE
While we are certainly open to accepting most cases brought to us, we occasionally find ourselves rejecting a case — no matter how much money may be offered. The majority of clients engage the services of a P.I. for legitimate reason. Every once in a while, however, the client’s purposes will be unlawful or harmful (i.e., stalking, assault, blackmail, murder). Here at NGI, we place great emphasis on getting to know our clients. If it appears that the prospective client’s purpose is unlawful or harmful, we reserve the right at our sole discretion to reject the case or to end an investigation at any time during our investigation.
LAWFUL AND PROFESSIONAL INVESTIGATIONS
Contrary to popular culture depiction of Private Investigators and the Private Investigation industry, we do not use any unlawful means or methods to obtain our information. There are very strict standards, imposed by both the industry and by the State of Florida (which has licensed our work), and which we adhere to and comply with.
THE SECRETS OF PRIVATE INVESTIGATION
Whenever we have a successful case, the question most often posed is: “How did you do it? What’s your secret?” Well, if we told you it wouldn’t be a secret. Would it? The fact is that the majority of the time we work with public records. Or the case may call for a surveillance. All cases require skill and expertise. And there are avenues available to us that aren’t available to the general public. But if we disclosed those, there is the chance that we may inadvertently aid someone who is “up to no good” as the old saying goes. And we’re not going to do that.
WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR IN A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR
Are you licensed? Most states require private investigators to be licensed. All of the investigators here at NGI are licensed by the State of Florida (there are reciprocity agreements with several other states), or have applied for licenses and received state approval to work pending the outcome of the license application. All applicants for P.I. licenses in Florida must successfully clear a background investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI. If your state requires Private Investigators to be licensed, and the investigator you are talking to doesn’t have one (or show proof of temporary state approval), don’t use them. They are engaging in unlicensed practice.
Are you licensed and insured? Are they fully licensed and insured, as required by the State of Florida. This is another important question and provides the client with some comfort in the event the investigation is done in an unlawful, improper or damaging manner.
What experience do you have in the type of investigation I need to have done? Here at NGI, we have experienced investigators with specialized expertise. You don’t want to hire someone for a surveillance who has never done one, or not been fully trained in the proper techniques, for example. NGI makes sure that the case is assigned to the most qualified investigator, with the background and expertise essential to your needs.