Are Private Investigators Allowed To Stalk You?
If you are going through a child custody case, divorce, or another challenging personal family issue, there is a chance someone might have hired private criminal investigators to spy on you. Any reasonable person would feel frustrated knowing if a private detective was following their every move, but the good news is we are here to help you protect yourself! That way you know understand the basics and can do due diligence if an ex-lover or ex-employer hired someone to follow you. Let’s get into the facts now!
Simply put, private investigators are not allowed to stalk you or invade your personal privacy. However, there are some things a private detective can do to gather information such as using GPS tracking devices or observing your activity on public property that is 100% legal. Here are some helpful tips about what PIs can’t do to help you better understand your rights and not become a victim of stalking by a private detective.
5 Things PIs Can’t Legally Do In A Personal Investigation
- Wear A Badge: A licensed private investigator cannot pretend to be law enforcement or misrepresent themselves as police officers. In fact, it is against the law in almost every state. However, a PI involved in infidelity investigations, background investigation, or fraud investigations is not required to identify themselves.
- Wiretapping: This one is a little more tricky, as the one-party consent and two-party consent laws are different in each state. Although it is overwhelmingly illegal for a PI to use a recording device in a personal investigation, they can take photographs of targets talking and write notes down about what they are saying.
- Photos Inside Your Home: If a PI is gathering evidence on a cheating spouse they are not allowed to take photos of the husband or wife while in the house, backyard, or any area where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. In fact, penalties are very severe for private detectives that are found to intentionally violate any local law relating to the expectation of privacy.
- Hack Into Social Media Accounts: PIs can’t remotely access personal cell phones to read text messages, review any online dating profiles, or conduct surveillances using spy apps.
- Trespass On Private Property: Even in corporate investigations or criminal defense investigations, private detectives are not allowed to enter private property to gather evidence.
Most private investigation agencies utilize background checks for financial fraud, check for a criminal record, conduct counter surveillances and bug sweeps for a victim of stalking or any person who might be stalked and harassed, and utilize GPS tracking technology to secretly track a car during the investigations process. They are able to uncover a lot of information from these methods to help someone identify if a spouse is cheating, locate missing persons, and determine if friends and family are lying.
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Can You Sue A Private Detective For Invasion Of Privacy
Yes, you can sue a private detective if you believe they are violating your privacy rights or stalking you but the reality is the case will likely fail. The crime of stalking is typically considered a criminal complaint in most states, and therefore law enforcement will have a role in whether or not the actions of a PI were criminal offenses. If you believe a private investigator is stalking you definitely speak with the police and share your story with them.
If the criminal justice route is leading nowhere the other option for you is to sue in civil court. The issue with taking a private detective to civil court is you would need definitive proof of loss or damages resulting from their actions. PIs have some special privileges when it comes to due diligence investigations so unless they were very reckless in the way they monitored you it would be hard to prove and receive compensation in civil court. This option also has another huge negative and that is if the civil court found in favor of the private investigator you would be out legal expenses and have to pay the legal costs of the counter-suing party expenses, but the other part can counter-sue demanding you pay their legal costs in bringing a frivolous lawsuit.
If you want more information on the most up-to-date stalking laws or believe you might be the victim of stalking please protect yourself by contacting RAINN for help.
Matthew is a freelance writer who is passionate about technology, music, photography, and decentralized finance.