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Definition of Private Investigator
A private investigator (often abbreviated to PI), private detective or (informally) private eye is a person who can be hired by individuals or
groups to undertake investigatory law services. Private detectives/investigators often work for attorneys in civil cases. Many work for insurance
companies to investigate suspicious claims. Before the advent of no-fault divorce, many private investigators were hired to search out evidence of
adultery or other conduct within marriage to establish grounds for a divorce. Despite the lack of legal necessity for such evidence in many
jurisdictions, according to press reports collecting evidence of adultery or other "bad behavior" by spouses and partners is still one of the most
profitable activities investigators undertake, as the stakes being fought over now are child custody, alimony, or marital property disputes.
Many jurisdictions require PIs to be licensed, and they may or may not carry firearms depending on local laws. Some are ex-police officers, some are
former law enforcement agents, some are ex-spies and some are ex-military, some used to work in a private military company, some are former
bodyguards and security guards, although many are not. While PIs may investigate criminal matters, most do not have police powers, and as such
they cannot arrest or detain suspects. They are expected to keep detailed notes and to be prepared to testify in court regarding any of their
observations on behalf of their clients. Great care is required to remain within the scope of the law, otherwise the investigator may face criminal
charges. Irregular hours may also be required when performing surveillance work.
PIs also engage in a large variety of work that is not usually associated with the industry in the mind of the public. For example, many PIs are
involved in process serving, the personal delivery of summons, subpoenas and other legal documents to parties in a legal case. The tracing of
absconding debtors can also form a large part of a PI's work load. Many agencies specialize in a particular field of expertise. For example,
some PI agencies deal only in tracing. Others may specialize in technical surveillance counter-measures (TSCM), sometimes called electronic
counter measures (ECM), which is the locating and dealing with unwanted forms of electronic surveillance (for example, a bugged boardroom for
industrial espionage purposes). Other PIs, also known as Corporate Investigators, specialize in corporate matters, including anti-fraud work,
the protection of intellectual property and trade secrets, anti-piracy, copyright infringement investigations, due diligence investigations and
computer forensics work.
Increasingly, modern PIs prefer to be known as "professional investigators" or Licensed Private Investigators (LPI's) rather than
"private investigators" or "private detectives". This is a response to the image that is sometimes attributed to the profession and an effort to
establish and demonstrate the industry to be a proper and respectable profession. However, in 2009 a Toronto Star journalist obtained a private
investigator's license in Ontario with no training, and reported that other Ontarians had done the same.
There are several types of investigation that will become part of your routine as an investigator.
1. Criminal Investigations
Private investigators work either for the victim or for the defendant or his attorney in criminal proceedings. Serious crimes, which may lead to
arrest and conviction of a subject, are the source of cases for the legal/criminal investigator.
2. Civil Investigations
This belongs to anything involving lawsuits in which questions of money or property must be settled. Violations of the law are usually not included.
Divorce, bankruptcy, personal injury and negligence cases, and lawsuits of various types are examples of civil cases that may request investigation.
3. Negligence Investigations
This type of investigation is conducted either for the plaintiff's attorney to prove liability or for the defendant's company or business to prove
the absence of liability or absence of a permanent serious injury. This can be accomplished through the use of surveillance (often video or photo),
locating and interviewing witnesses, or trying to establish that a pre-existing condition caused or was aggravated by the injury or that the defendant
was at fault. A modest investigative fee often saves a client from a large monetary award.
4. Corporate Investigation
An investigator may monitor what is going on in a business, investigate fraud within or outside the company, and provide diligence investigations or
5. General Investigations
This category includes a wide variety of investigative activities. This included location of witnesses and missing persons, tracing dishonest employee
and fraud, security surveys, surveillances, bodyguard work, serving of legal procedure, etc.
6. Personnel and Background Checks
This type of investigation is ordered by businesses, and is undertaken in order to determine whether the feature, history, financial status,
credentials of an individual make him a suitable candidate for a job, a position of public trust, a large loan, credit, etc. Insurance companies
investigate applicants; banks check on individuals applying for loans and also check the applicant's credit rating.
Many private investigative companies offer a series of security services, including:
Safety protection, security incident investigation, and celebrity protection.