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Steps to Hiring a Private Investigator

At Morrison Investigations, we value the quality of our work and our reputation as an ethical company.  For this reason, we want to share the steps to hiring a private ivestigator.  Hopefully, this will help you in your search.  If you are in the DALLAS FORT WORTH area, please feel free to give us a call or contact us!


A Checklist Of Qualities

A list of names is only the first step. Make sure they meet these criteria:


Since it’s easier in some states for a person to call himself a private investigator, you don’t want to rely merely on the title as a final qualification. A few states have no requirements-anybody can call himself an investigator and try to make a living at it. Other states demand very little to qualify; some allow people to be identified as a PI if they work exclusively with one attorney.

The majority of states, however, have specific requirements. In these states, PIs must have investigative experience. The amount of time required varies and may be reduced based on education.

Strict states, for example, may require 6,000 hours of field work, such as working with the police force, the FBI or another investigator. Also, the applicant must pass a state-administered test and pass a thorough background and fingerprint investigation. California is one of the most demanding states when it comes to approving private investigators.

Contact the licensing division of your state’s Department of Consumer Affairs to learn your state’s requirements and confirm that the PIs you’re considering are indeed licensed.


What type of educational background do they have? In law enforcement? Private investigation? Do they have technical skills, such as computer savvy? In what area is their specialty? Are there areas in which they’re inexperienced, such as computer security or polygraphs? Will this affect your needs?

Find out how many years they’ve been practicing and how many of their cases were like yours. How did those cases turn out?

Clean Record

Contact your state association of private investigators to see if any complaints have been registered or disciplinary actions filed against the investigator.

Good Character

What overall impression do you receive from this person? Is his first concern money? (Your needs come first.) Can you trust him? What are his thoughts on confidentiality? Has this person shown an ethical nature, a sense of decency?

While private investigators are not officially held to an attorney-client or doctor-patient level of confidentiality, a good PI will honor this. He will never surrender an informant or information, and will keep private everything shared between the two of you.

Some clients worry that their identities may be revealed if a PI is confronted by the person being investigated. A good PI would never disclose his client’s name. This protects you. If the surveillance fails, you at least haven’t suffered any repercussions because of it.

There are times, however, when a private investigator would want to let subjects know they’re being investigated, such as in a pre-employment screening. This technique discourages applicants who have something in their backgrounds that would disqualify them.

Can Testify In Court

People with a law enforcement or federal agent background know the system and how to work within it. They can produce evidence or other legal materials that will hold up in court. They also are prepared to testify in support of it. Make sure the investigator you choose has this background. Ask if he is prepared to come to court if the situation requires it. Also find out if he has ever testified in a similar case and if there is anything in his past that could prevent him from taking the stand.

Remember, if your situation ends up in the court system, your case will be that much stronger if your PI is adept at testifying and presenting the information he’s uncovered.

To be considered an expert and eligible to testify, a private investigator will be asked a series of qualifying questions by the judge that may focus on his background, education, experience and anything else that may determine if he’s an “expert.”

As in other situations, appearance is important. Is he well-groomed and professional looking? Would he command respect from a judge or jury?


Knows Human Nature

Knowing how to anticipate people, how to question them, and how to strategize based on what you learn are effectively valuable PI tools. While this experience in human nature may not compensate for a private investigator skilled with a computer, a good “people sense” makes a PI more effective III gathering and relaying information.

Works Out Of An Office

Scratch a PI off your list if he conducts business only at restaurants, by phone or through a mailbox address. Once you’ve handed him a payment, how do you know you’ll be able to find him again?

An orderly office can also be a window into the degree of his professionalism.

Clearly Spells Out Fees

Right off, tell him what you want done and find out how much it will cost. He should be able to provide you with an accurate estimate and should ever exceed this amount unless you’re notified beforehand.

Remember from Chapter Two that it’s not expensive to locate people and assets. Many private investigators will have an office computer ready to tap into various databases. Their time and expertise may raise the fee, but locating people should generally cost around $70. A background investigation is about $300 to $400.

Has Good Rapport With You

Do you connect with the PI? Does he understand your situation? Does he maintain eye contact? Do you feel comfortable? You’re trusting him with the confidentiality of your situation as well as the information he uncovers, which may affect many of the people closest to you. He should treat your case with sensitivity.

Is his conversation free of any patronizing or condescending remarks? Do you feel comfortable enough to ask all your questions? Are his answers satisfying? Do you leave the office with a sense of hope?

A good private investigator is as professional in the delivery of information as he is in gathering it. As his client, you should feel he is looking out for your best interests.

The First Meeting

What should you bring to the initial meeting? All relevant documents and information, and be prepared to summarize your needs. For example, Anna wants to have a surveillance conducted on her husband, Miles. For her consultation, Anna should provide an accurate description of him (bring a picture) and his car, as well as any significant addresses, such as his office, local hangouts, friends’ houses, etc. We also request a twenty-four hour scenario-what is his typical day like?

Don’t worry if you forget something. This is just the first step toward hiring someone. You’re just gathering information about service, fees and the investigator himself. The investigator will walk you through the process and what he needs to do his job.

The initial consultation should be free, which will relieve the decision-making pressure. And you should feel comfortable giving yourself time to evaluate your needs with the new information you have gathered from your consultation. If you decide to use this particular agency, you will schedule a follow-up meeting to begin the process. You can provide the additional information at that time.

SOURCE: InvestigatorConfidential.com

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